I had pretty much sussed out all the assholes in the waiting area before we went inside. Me for sure and maybe this other guy, because he just sat quietly and looked real stoned. Of course, the doc did just stick his finger up his ass.
I didn’t hesitate and was pretty much on it the moment the gate locked. But that is how the game is played, so I hope no one took it personally; of course I hoped they did. The gate was ten feet high and so was the wall surrounding the warehouse I was going to live in with these fucking losers until I was the last one there, or that was my plan and I am sure the plan of the ZTV executives.
The whole scenario reminded me of the old movie, Battle Royale, where there was this plant, this dude who made sure things were good and fucked. But in this game, we didn’t get to kill each other; that was off the table though it had happened once - season six. In The Compound, you just had to be the last one left inside the wall. The gate opened and you were free to leave at any time. That was the first thing I said.
“You fuckers might as well walk through that gate right now and take the easy twenneh grand,” I said, shaking my head. I was deliberately making fun of the Polack that had earlier struggled to pronounce the number correctly. “I’ll tell you right now, I am the asshole this season. One of you may think you are, but let me say that you are not. I am.”
Only one of the other five looked up at me, and quizzically at that. Anumi, I think her name was. Big-tittied African girl from Nigeria. The kind you want to fuck, but don’t want anyone knowing you want to, or especially that you did. I found her sleeping a few hours ago in a chair in the studio break room. No one was around, so I put some come in her nasty dreads. I might bring that up later if it serves my needs. So, she looked at me and then followed the rest of the players through the warehouse entrance.
I waited and let the door slam closed. See, I have been paying for this game for years, since it began really. It ain’t on the regular four hundred shitball channels you get on your TV lineup these days; it has its own channel and its own fee. I got hooked on it when I was living with a real cunt of a woman who could have won the game in about ten hours if there were enough blacks or gays in the house with her.
So, I was in no hurry to get inside the big cinderblock fortress we had to live in as long as we could. I knew what it would look like, how things might be arranged, probably how the damned thing smelled. Right now, I knew there was some tousling going on inside as to who gets to sleep on which dilapidated Army cot and who gets which unmarked generic duffel from the big pile of unmarked generic duffel bags in the kitchen area.
You could only call it an area because there weren’t really rooms in the warehouse, which I will just call the house from now on because I am fucking tired of typing. It was a large open floor plan with shit just randomly arranged; except the toilet, it was right next to the refrigerator, always has been. Now that I think about it “randomly arranged” sounds like a contradiction in terms, but you dig it the most.
I didn’t care which bag I got, they were full of useless crap anyway. I went over the typical inventory list in my head as I opened the house door: bar of soap, toothbrush, shampoo, bag of hard candies of a flavor no one enjoys, towel, some trashy newsstand rag, pencil and small notepad, pack of Bicycle playing cards, sewing kit, thirty days worth of multi-vitamins, a pair of ridiculous PJs, and one random tool. What most people didn’t know was that the hygiene items were all used from the last season.
As I had guessed, the dilapidated Army cots were already staked out and duffel bags sat at the foot of most of them. My cot was obviously the one under the hole in the wall that should have a window in it, but didn’t.
I walked over and sat on it. For ten years I had watched a group of six people walk into this abandoned building on the edge of Detroit and feel their cots and sit on them. I always thought they must be pretty uncomfortable judging by the reactions I am used to seeing. Uncomfortable is being nice. Mine, at least, sagged lower on one end so I would be sleeping on an incline; up or down would be my decision. Other than that it was standard Army-issue canvas on a wood frame. I had spent enough time in various lockups around the country to know what the wool blanket was going to feel like, so no harm there.
I resisted the urge to open my duffel bag, but after a decade of wondering, I absolutely had to know which flavor my hard candy was. Grape. I hate grape. Ten minutes in and I was already willing to make a trade.
“Any of you faggots want to trade candies? I fucking hate grape,” I yelled to the rest of the contestants. This was done for a few reasons: one, piss off whoever the faggot of the season was; two, see who was weak enough to start bargaining after ten minutes – myself not included; three, I fucking hate grape.
Looking around, I saw that most of these poor bastards were arranging their toiletries at the edges or ends of their cots. What idiots. They probably didn’t even know they had candies. I was going to throw my bag of grape nightmares at a guy I could only guess was from India to get his attention, but that would get me ejected from the festivities faster than anything; that was the ONE rule: no physical interaction.
No offers. I guessed the ZTV network went to an Introverts Anonymous meeting to get this particular bunch of assholes. Usually contestants do their homework after accepting the offer to play. Watch a few seasons on laserdisc, get an idea of how it works, at least know you have fucking candies. One season some of the candies were laced with a marijuana extract. Maybe I didn’t want to trade?
Funny enough, though actually disappointing on my part, looking around the room I only then put the season’s theme together: no one was from the same country, or at least as far as I could tell.
We had the aforementioned Polack, the guy who must be from India with his moustache to rival the gods, the big-tittied African woman, an older man of some Oriental pedigree – I think Chinese, and a rather rotund Messican guy. And that was how I would address him in my worst Cheech Marin accent: Messican guy.
I put my candies back into my bag and tossed it under my cot. Sitting on the “up” end of the thing I began to undress. I didn’t really want to be here any longer than I had to, so I might as well get it rolling. Underneath my loose fitting jeans I wore seven pair of underwear. I removed them all and walked to the fridge, opened it and put them on the shelf next to this season’s gallon of buttermilk.
There had been nudists on The Compound in the past, but none of them had what was currently hanging between my legs. Strolling back to my cot I saw Anumi, the African glancing over at me. So was the Hindu.
“Go ahead and look, little man. You can polish it with your moustache later,” I said. He was indeed short in stature, even with his finely coiffed pompadour. I was about to berate him some more when the overhead TVs switched on. Nothing to see… yet.
This was where the gamemaster could be a real prick. Hanging from the warehouse ceiling, which was probably forty feet, were a bunch of monitors just out of reach. And they would come on at various times and show either the most boring shit imaginable or the most disgusting stuff. I was hoping for a repeat of season three: hours and hours of obese people fucking each other with all sorts of objects. I can squirt my ejaculate pretty far after a good long rub and I was hoping for a reason to show off for the home audience. Shit, maybe I’ll do it anyway.
Being naked is always a good time, but scaring the natives is even better so I walked over to the old Chinee. I am guessing old, because you can’t always tell with those people. What hairline he had left resembled one engaged in the monastic life, his face sagged a bit, wrinkles in all the right places. He was much shorter than me – in fact I was the tallest one in the room – and he wore the non-descript clothes typical of someone who had grown up in Mao’s China. His nose was flat and wide with nostrils that could accommodate a fair amount of air and his eyes had that cataract glaze. He was bent over when I approached, folding his bright red pajamas. I saw the name WANG written in thick marker inside the collar of his coarse cotton tunic. Ha! I got the Chinee part right!
“You need help old timer?” I asked Wang. He didn’t reply, just folded the clothes. I began to wonder if they also went to Deafies Anonymous for contestants. I crouched in front of the wise master from the Orient and pointed at the pajamas. “You need help?”
He squinted at me through impossibly thick spectacles and grinned. “Oh, I just ol man, ha ha ha ha,” Wang said in what could roughly be called English.
“You just get off the boat?” I made hand gestures demonstrating a boat on the waves. Looking around, I asked the larger question. “All of y’all just get off the boat? I know the Polack speaks enough English, he been here for a while. I heard him cursing when the doc stuck his finger up his ass. Maybe he was liking it. How about you, Anumi?” I only knew the African’s name because she wrote it in huge letters when she was signing the medical release at the network studio. You could see that shit from across the room.
The woman was reading the tube of toothpaste that said simply “toothpaste” and looked up at me, her head cocked to one side.
“Goddamn,” I said. “You know this is all for me, right? You are all my fodder! Those TVs are going to keep you awake all night. Seals getting clubbed to death, fat people fucking any fold of chub they can find, airplane crashes, drone strikes, decapitations, you name it. I got ten years of ammunition on you. If I wasn’t fucking naked I would have a bandolier of doom wrapped around my ass with your names on it. It would say Wang, Anumi, fat Messican guy, Chinaski or whatever the Polack’s name is, fucking Vishnu. The odds in Vegas have me at fifty-nine percent to win this goddamn game and for good reason. I didn’t even apply, motherfuckers! The idiots I work with put together a video of me ruining everyone in the office and sent it to the network. I win! You… lose!”
Finally I had their attention. Whatever banal mental processes that occupied their minds up to now had paused in their drudgery and had gotten on board with the reality of the situation. I looked down at Wang and he was smiling in a kind of Down Syndrome way, as if I was going to pull a bouquet of flowers out of my ass.
“Don’t look at me like that, Wang. You know we can’t touch each other.” I looked at the African. “Anumi, if you get naked we could at least have some fun from across the room, huh?”
The Polack finally spoke up, though I have no idea what he said. He rambled off a string of incoherent syllables and pointed to the floor.
“Yes, that’s right Chinaski! You will all be on the floor and I will float away to the cloud of money which Jehovah himself has been keeping in the bank for me! And I will tell you something else, old buddy. Hidden in various places throughout the warehouse are bottles of booze. I bet we could find some vodka for you, huh? While you figure out how a toothbrush works, I will scout for the hooch and we can get drunk and then lips will flap, eh?”
Wang spoke. “I just ol man, ha ha ha ha.”
“After you all leave, old Wang, I will get a tattoo of that on my pecker here, see?" I said, grabbing my dick and waving it around. I laughed and started my search for the good stuff.
The warehouse was capacious, certainly, but not cavernously so. I knew the measurements by heart: three hundred fifty feet by two hundred. The furnishings, that is to say the cots and kitchen appliances, were scattered throughout the space and bolted in place. The structure was originally a metal fabrication space, and all the machinery left behind was still there, covered in cobwebs and dust. It was among these many contraptions that the gamemaster would hide various imbibes. But the guy, known only as Gary, was a complete bastard. A delicious 18-year scotch may be spiked with ipecac, making for a colorful display across the polished concrete floor to be left to ferment in the heat and humidity of the Detroit summer.
For some, that is a quick ticket to the compound gate. For me it would be something to slosh around in and track back to the fridge. Eat up folks!
As I was about to start my search for the evening’s party-starter, I remembered season four. Some hapless fool, who went by the moniker Captain Mosh, went traipsing about the warehouse barefoot and found some other leftover from the industrious days: a large sliver of metal shaving that went up into his foot and infected him within the day. I recalled watching him hop to the gate and remove himself from the competition. That was not to be me, so I put on my sneakers and ventured forth.
I walked quietly, hoping to catch snatches of conversation from the other players, but it was as silent as a funeral for a mime.
One might expect that the search for hooch would be straightforward, but Gary was a slick mofo. He once hid an entire fifth of vodka in a remnant of copper pipe, sealed at each end with plumber’s putty, which was buried in the belt drive of a rotting band saw. Fuck him, I thought, I am getting drunk.
The warehouse was lighted with ghastly sodium lamps hanging from overhead and like the TVs, too far to abuse from the ground and protected from projectile damage by thick plex enclosures. They threw enough light into the corners to effect a general search, but there would be much groping with hands into dark recesses. I took off into the gloom and yelled over my shoulder. “Any of you fucks want to help, feel free. Booze is the goal! We will drink… we can talk then!”
I heard a shuffle behind me and saw the Messican, wearing a wife-beater and brown slacks, coming up behind me. “Booze?” he said. At least that was what I thought he said.
“Si amigo!” I replied. “Licor! Borracho!” He nodded and followed me into the gloom. I pointed to some abandoned machinery in the corner and away he went.
I walked to the bench against the farthest wall of the warehouse. This was known to the fanbase as “Haley’s Heaven.” She was the fifth season winner who found in the drawers of this bench a righteous store of protein bars and airport bottles of various liquors. Haley outlasted the two contestants left at the time by keeping the bars shoved down her pants, giving her apparently superhuman staying power. At the same time she was drunk the rest of the game and berated the others with cleverly devised threats against their souls, sent to her – or so she made it known – from beings from another dimension.
Haley was my hero from then on, and I aspired to follow in her footsteps. But she committed suicide a month after the game was over… to that I do not aspire. I carefully opened each of the six drawers in the bench. In season seven, Gary booby-trapped one of the drawers with a beehive, so I was apprehensive of his fucking surprises. Alas, there was nothing to be found save a desiccated rat in the last drawer. Still I brought it out and poked about in case he had something hidden inside. Just dried guts.
Around the back of the bench, I struck pay dirt. Duct-taped under the overhang of the bench top was a twenty-ounce plastic water bottle containing a brown liquid. Whiskey, thought I! I whistled to the Messican, who came trotting over. I pointed to the ersatz flask I had set on the top of the bench.
“You first, amigo!” I pointed to the Messican. He looked at me and smiled as he snatched up the hooch. Opening the bottle, he sniffed and smiled again. One, two, three shots down. He handed it to me and wiped his lips. I took the plastic and waited. The Messican did not fall over, did not puke up his guts, so I smelled the liquid.
Fucking Maker’s Mark! Gary knew. He had done his homework. This was my drink: on the rocks, straight up, right from the bottle. I lifted the golden elixir up the to the sodium lamps, swished it around and drank half the flask. I coughed at the end and smiled at the Messican.
“Mas!” I squealed. “Ayee!” I pointed to the darkest corners of the building and shooed him away. He took off at a run to find more treasure. Now that was an asshole move on my part. He might put his hand into a rat trap or a hive of bees, but I had the Maker’s and it only fuelled my search.
I left the bottle on the bench, as I had no other place to hold it and finished searching the table. Nothing. On to the next target: a row of lockers set into the wall just left of the workbench.
Before I started opening the doors of the metal rack of holding cells, I yelled across the way to the four non-participants sitting on their cots.
“Yo! We are finding shit. You know what is in that fridge? Buttermilk! Aint’ nothing more coming until tomorrow morning!” It was an empty threat really. Booze is only going to get you so far, but I was hoping they would get in on the drinking and I could really go at them… incite riot and win in the first twenty-four hours. Never been done!
Wang looked over and nodded and giggled some more. “My wife hate me!” he said, looking back at the floor. What the hell had Gary done? What kind of game was this? No one was playing except Jorge and me.
I forewent the lockers and grabbed the bottle and walked over to the Indian guy. He was staring at one of the TVs, as if it would tell him what to do.
“Krishna!” I said, holding the bottle close to his face. “DO… YOU… WANT… A… DRINK? Good stuff. Holy water, my friend!”
He looked at me and then at the bottle. “It is injurious, actually,” he said. I pshawed and held the bottle up.
“Injurious, actually? You know, that moustache is injurious! I am surprised you do not walk with a tilt forward, carrying so much hair on your face, Vishnu!”
“Chinaski?” I said, holding out what was left of the Maker’s to the Polish ambassador. “It is not vodka, but you would like it!”
The man was spit-polishing a very nice pair of patent leather shoes. The ones with the long pointy toes that were all the rage in his people’s community. He stared at me for a moment and took the whisky from my hand. After a celebratory toast to no on in particular, he swigged some down.
“Now we are talking, man!” I exclaimed. ”New party, new party!” This was something I had heard some of my Polish friends say as they grabbed a fresh bottle of vodka at seven in the morning, after drinking all night. I figured it was one phrase they all knew. Whether or not this dude knew it, it didn’t matter. He finished some whisky and put his shoes on. Slowly he wandered to the other end of the warehouse in pursuit of a new party.
While I had been getting my drink on, I had not noticed Anumi sitting on the cot with Wong, showing him how to use his toothbrush. Not a fucking word from her, still, though. I went to join them.
“Fucking Wang, learning to brush your teeth. And mother Anumi helping a brother out. What say you both come with me in search of further fun-bringers?” I pointed to my mouth in an attempt to break through whatever language barrier was magically in place.
“I just ol man, ha ha ha ha,” came the reply from Wong. Anumi sat up, jutting those huge boobs out at me, and pointed to the Indian, who was digging through the wooden cabinets looking for something.
I sighed and walked away. The fridge was placed against one of the cinderblock walls, and above it hung a large digital display showing how much time had elapsed since the gate swung shut and the game had begun. Just over an hour.
In past seasons, the first hour was usually spent with the players jimmy-jacking about where they were from, what they did for work, who was the gay, and such crap.
My computer was full of spreadsheets devoted to this shit. Average time to out the gay: 2h12m, time to the first verbal altercation: 26h09m, time to the first contestant departure 53h24m. The exposition of all trades and employers was an astonishing 23m, on average.
I know my stats and this game was not going in the direction it should. In fact, it would be skewing the odds in Vegas and re-writing some cherished formulae for its genre. And here I was, stuck in the middle of it. I had no idea who the gay was, I had no idea where these people worked, what their disposition was toward just about anything. The game clock now showed one hour and a half and I was no closer to my goal. In fact, I was running backwards.
I looked around the warehouse ceiling at the cameras that were following each of us. They were the infrared deals that could see into the dimmer corners of the room. There were microphones hanging from the rafters every fifteen feet as well, listening to nothing currently, as no one was talking. My primate brain smelled a conspiracy: one aimed at making me look the ass. I decided I would take no part in it.
A cry over my shoulder turned me around. The Hindu had found something in the row of Sears 1970s dark wood cabinets hanging next to the fridge. He was unwrapping a silver-foiled bar of some kind. Maybe a nutrition bar; those were known to pop up from time to time. What these folks probably didn’t know is that the cabinets were accessible from the other side of the wall as well. Same with the fridge. That was how food made its way into the warehouse: from the benevolent gamemaster’s minions who lived a small caravan of RVs outside the wall.
Whatever the worshipper of Ganesh found, he was eating without much care as to its origins. Definitely a newbie to The Compound. Yet he didn’t seem to mind a naked man, shaved head to toe, walking around in fluorescent purple workout shoes. My 24-hour plan was twenty-two hours away from failure, so I began to fart.
This was something I have always been able to do; Fart-on-Demand I called it. For this particular occasion, I had devoured a special blend of cruciferous vegetables and legumes that gave me staying power the best F-o-Der could only pray for. I started my onslaught at Wang’s cot.
“Hey ol man,” I said to Wang, using his self-given moniker. “How do you Chinee say fart?” I let one rip and pointed to my ass. “Fart? Butt air? Or was this not part of Mao’s Cultural Revolution?”
I almost fell over with surprise as the old timer rose from his cot and walked away, giggling the whole time. “I just ol man, ha ha ha ha,” he said for the I don’t know how manyeth time. Anumi stood and rambled off about a hundred words in some obscure dialect. Then she farted and laughed loudly. “Me too, fart man!”.
Then another fart from across the room. Hindu man was running for the toilet that was nestled cozily against the refrigerator. He looked around, sweat beading on his forehead. “I am sorry!” he yelled. “I have to make shit!” In one motion, he had dropped his corduroy trousers and unleashed a torrent of feces into the toilet bowl. I was expecting a massive backsplash but instead heard nothing. A look of horror stretched across Shiva’s face as he realized, along with the few of us in proximity, that there was no water in the bowl. Oh Gary, you fucker! That was a nasty move. I backed away and went to find the Messican before the smell hit me full force.
The portly one was wandering around one corner of the warehouse, poking a piece of wooden dowel he had found into various places he apparently did not want to put his hand. A smart move, I thought; fifteen percent of contestants had come to injury by blindly grabbing into nooks and crannies. There was, by law, some kind of first-aid kit hanging from the wall somewhere in the building; it moved each season.
A scream from the toilet! Ah… no tissue paper. The Indian was cursing – it could be nothing else – to every entity I had heard of and plenty more. I strolled over to get a glimpse of the tragedy.
“All promises are fuck! Money is not enough for this type of shit, okay! Now to find if family is still full of accept for torture of immigrants…” he paused as another round of diarrhea took hold. The poor man was holding his head in his hands, mumbling through tears about fasting for one hundred days. He stopped shitting and pulled his pants off over his shoes.
If he had watched season one, he would know about the laxative candy bars that were heaped in a pile on the kitchen countertop when the contestants entered. At least they had water in the fucking toilet then.
“Naked man is not only problem, okay,” Hindu sniffed, looking at the ceiling. “No money for wedding of daughter, actually. Visa is expire and jeddo days for more time.”
I was sure there was some sentiment in there I was missing, but I have seen worse in this game. Diarrhea was sort of the norm, to be honest. The subject of Ram stood up, kneeled over and wiped his ass with his trousers, then threw them on the floor. He was going commando and simply stood after the fact, his little brown dong hanging sadly.
He wagged his finger at me. “No no no… not understanding, okay. For local, they are not caring. For immigrants, we have to go.” He went to the entrance and walked out, his hairy butt smeared with crap.
I looked at the game clock. Just over two hours. All of a sudden, I was beating the curve. No one even had to thoroughly debase another. One down and I don’t even know what the hell he was saying. I looked at the shit-stained pants on the floor and thought about kicking them against the wall, but no; that would be weakness.
Time to check on the effect the Hindu crapper had on the others. Anumi was walking around aimlessly, looking out of windows that were one way mirrors, but she probably didn’t know that. On the other side were cameras sending her nosing about to the world via the Internet live feeds. The online voting was probably low at this point, but if she took off her top, half of the Midwest would be red hot. Perverts.
The Messican and the Polack were poking about, as such was their genetic disposition toward intoxicating fluids. Now I am not being a bigot here; being Irish, I would drink anything over four proof. In season eight, one Irish actually poured an entire bottle of Scope through a loaf of bread and slurped down the filtered dribble through a hole he poked in the bottom of the bread sack. Go Irish!
The ol Chinee was examining the furniture, which was almost cosmetic. Yes, it would hold one’s weight, but not much more. In season four, one enterprising young man broke the loveseat into pieces and made a pile in the corner and using sparks from shorting some wires from a 120v outlet made a nice fire for warmth. Oh yeah, there is no heat in the building, which is not so much a problem during the day, but night can get rather chilly right off Lake St. Clair.
Speaking of love seats, Wang found the only one in the building, about twenty yards from the kitchen area, and lay down on it, his diminutive form fitting perfectly between the two armrests. He immediately yelled and stood up. Along the back of his purple silk shirt small red spots were appearing. Gary had not lost his touch, I thought.
“Ol Chinee! You are bleeding to death,” I hollered. Wang was bent over, running his hands along his back, trying to figure out what had pricked his delicate skin. I strode over and let one go in his face. “That’s broccoli, bro! Good for your heart… inhale!” He looked up at me and began scratching his back as hard as I have ever seen anyone do it.
“Ahhh! So much itchy!” I am guessing Gary had spiked the couch springs with some nasty microbial agent. In the next second Wang’s shirt was off and it was not looking good for him. Not only was blood oozing from innumerable pinpricks in his wrinkled yellow skin, between the dots a red rash was spreading. A bit extreme, Gary, I thought. “I need washing,” the victim said. He rushed to the sink poised nearly in the middle of the warehouse space.
“Hey! Vodka!” came a shout from the corner shadows, tinged with the accent of Eastern Europe. It was the Polish explorer, whose name I still did not know. He ran over to join me and the sufferer. He held the bottle over his head. “New party!” He unwrapped the plastic and began to swig it down.
“Hey!” I shouted. “Not so fast… you don’t know what that is.” Uh oh. My conscience had crawled to the surface for a moment and overtook my ambition to win. He looked at me, his mouth still full of the swill, waiting for an instruction. “Oh, fuck it,” I said. “Give me some of that.”
I smelled the bottle cautiously… it seemed like the real thing, so I drank. If I was going to puke, at least my mouth would be numb to the bile burn. The stuff was pretty good quality, so I took another draft. After a moment, I pointed to Wang at the sink, futilely trying to splash water on his back. The Polish nodded.
We took the bottle to Wang and poured a generous portion across his back. He winced and bent over, indicating he needed some more. The liquor was dripping from his back to the floor, tinged pink with his still-flowing blood. There was a roll of Brawny paper towels on the counter; I ripped off a few and dropped them on Wang’s back. No touchy! That's in the rules. He thanked me with a sigh and held the towels against his skin. Apparently the booze was helping him. Shit, he might even get drunk from it soaking into his capillaries. Then he fell over. The Polish went to catch him before he brained himself on the concrete floor, but I yelled out and wagged a finger. Wang hit the floor and passed out.
Anumi ran over from wherever the hell she had been and started yelling at us and pointing frantically to Wang shirtless on the floor.
“He is hurt, Lady Mububu,” I said, pointing to the blood on the floor surrounding his body. Now I have to admit that the scene was not very pretty and could be interpreted a few ways. She apparently thought the worst. With one swift motion, she had picked the featherweight Chinee from the floor, tossed him over her shoulder and was marching him out the front door.
“What the fuck!” I exclaimed. “You can’t take him out of the game! And you can't touch him!” More weakness; goddamned alcohol. Then I thought about it. In ten seasons, I have never seen anyone taken out by another player; there was nothing in my spreadsheets about this. I ran through the rules in my head, of which there were very few. I thought of football and the rule against carrying your own player down the field for a yardage gain, about pushing the ball-carrier forward for a yardage gain. Then, back to The Compound, I could not think of any precedent or rule governing players carrying other players out. For the obvious reason that it would disqualify the player doing the carrying, no one would forfeit their chance at the big prize for the sake of another. But Wang was out cold and probably needed some medical help. I hesitated to tell Anumi that in the RV caravan outside the main gate was a squad of medics who would appear in the case of a real emergency. Two more down, holy shit! I let a celebratory fart. The Polish laughed and took the bottle.
The game clock: two hours forty-seven minutes. A fucking record. Never been done. I already saw the dreary talk shows lining up to get my story. Maybe I would Fart-on-Demand for them.
From the other corner of the room, the Messican came into view, holding two bottles of something. He had already downed half of one of them and was singing some tune to celebrate. I pointed to a table halfway down the length of the room. The smell of the Indian shit and the sight of the Chinee blood was honestly a little much for me at the moment.
We convened at the crappy Ikea-style table. I examined the chairs for booby traps and we sat, putting the bottles on the tabletop.
Half a bottle of vodka, one and half of a brown liquid that had stained the Messican’s wife-beater. Smiles all around, but still confusion on my brow as to what the hell was really going on. The booze had affected me a bit, I admit. I was feeling gregarious, and that meant trouble. Being nice does not win The Compound. So I turned it up… what I had.
“So, you fuckers, we have the booze, three of us are down, now what? I sit here with my huge dong, we are drinking, and you two have not said shit. What gives?”
The Messican took some more brown swill and handed it to me. “Mucho borracho, ese!” he said. Well, I knew what that meant. I smelled his hooch and decided it was okay. After all, he was still standing… for now. It smelled like rum, which I fucking hated, but I drank. It was rum, and a cheap one. When I was in Monroe State pen for a four-month stretch, I learned to drink the ketchup hooch my celly made up in the rafters, so I could stomach the worst. This was about close.
“You, Polack! How did you get into the game? They came to me, but I doubt they found you chomping at the bit.” I wagged a finger at the portly balding man across from me.
“I get to stay in America for the game!” he replied. “Son is sick, so I play.”
How many times have I seen that tactic played? A lot. 15.5% in fact, over the ten seasons. Everyone has an angle, a suffering, some sad fucking story that tugs at the heartstrings. My story? I will fuck you up and stab your kid on the way out. Money, bitches, money. That is why I am here and I have no problem watching the Polack kid laid to rest from whatever afflicts them folk.
“So,” I said while slurping down some of the brown juice. “You know this is a game. Playing rather well, in fact. Hide in the corners while the real shit goes down. Same with Paco here.” I gestured to the Messican. He was smiling vacantly, so I handed him the bottle.
“You know the game, right Pancho Villa?” I put on the third degree stare. Pancho nodded and mumbled something, apparently communing with Quetzalcoatyl. I wondered at the rum for a moment, handed it back to the brownskin and grabbed the vodka stuff from the Polack.
“I’ll share this if you don’t mind.” The man shrugged and put his hands out as if it was his idea for me to drink. I did.
Now, I have seen what happens to people when they drink in The Compound. Usually it doesn’t get rolling until 18h13m into the game, on average, once people have become friendly and then bottles are searched for. The liquor flows, the amateurs get sick and leave or pass out, and the pros take over and find the edibles.
The only food so far was that shit bar the Punjabi found. There was probably other stuff in the cabinets to be had, but my pre-game meal was perfectly balanced for almost 48 hours of nutrition with a modicum of waste. I should be able to drink at least a bottle and still maintain, allowing my compatriots to find the floor easily enough. In fact, the Messican now looked like he was on the way out already. His grin was souring and had begun to head south under his formidable moustache.
I began to call the Polish embassy when I felt a little queer. Tired with a tinge of paranoia. “Gary what the fuck!” I yelled. Weakness. Dosed. The mayor of Krakow was smiling. Why? He knew. His son was sick, my anus. He was the mole. They had done their homework, and I was going to fail.
I tried to stand when the TVs came on. Twelve inescapable panels of doom erupting with the fury of a thousand ex-wives intent on making my future a living hell. I found my seat and put my head in my hands.
The Polack was laughing and holding his bottle to me. “New party! New party!” Oh, the bastard knew that one after all. I pointed to the TVs and groaned. “You, my friend!” he said. The fuck did that mean?
He was correct, damn him. Every screen was showing myself in high-def glory as I berated people around my town of Seattle. There I was in a nightclub in Redmond, mocking the Indians trying to enjoy a game of cricket, exclaiming how the belief in Vishnu would not produce a better innings. Then at Microsoft explaining how to the South Africans how it is okay to talk to black people here and not beat them to a pulp. That was a good one as I remembered it, but not so good at full volume while my brain was pulsing out of my skull. Where the fuck did they get this shit?
The Polish was drinking and laughing his ass off at a shot of me telling old man Chang, my landlord, to not worry about the rent because I would be paying in rice. Then the best of 2011, in my mind: the old Eritrean selling crap kebob on highway 99. “You want kebob?” the darker than dark vendor asked. “Sure, I want kebob!” I said. “Only halal! You have halal?” He nodded and gave me a skewer with some shit meat on it. I threw it at his feet and made random illustrations. “Not halal!” I said.
A thud on the ground. The Messican had fallen to the floor and was writhing in a strange fashion. As I swayed in my drugged way I thought, one more down. Then I was on the floor.
From my unfortunate vantage I saw the Messican being lifted by hands from a crazy dream. White and red flashes bore him up to the spirit in the sky. I stood, eventually, back to the table where the Polack was smiling from his cheeks left to right.
“You know!” I said to the Polack. “They took that fucking bastard! Amor de rey!”
The man simply smiled and took another pull from the bottle. He was watching the monitors overhead. Again my face was present, wearing a manner of anger I was not even familiar with.
The Windows XP ship party was the occasion. There was a stage on the company soccer field and some douche was introducing the Microsoft board of directors. I was pretty drunk at this event, and when the CEO of Merck was introduced, I launched into a five-minute tirade about the evils of big pharma. The CEO simply wavered back and forth in front of the microphone and smiled, nodding to me as if to say he could buy me one million times over. When security came over and asked me to pipe down, I abused them a bit and threw my beer on the stage, which unfortunately showered Bill and Steve, who were standing too close to CEO guy. The picture of me tossing the beer made the Seattle PI the next day along with a story of employee dissatisfaction at Microsoft. Idiots.
I grabbed the hooch from the Polack and took a swig, one hand on the tabletop. He was laughing like a hyena. “You gave beer to Bill Gates!” he chortled.
By now, I should have been hauled away by the medics, but I was no novice. Gary had obviously not seen the video of me and Alex Lebedeff pounding Jameson and Guinness for ten hours straight in my office at Microsoft, the whole time writing two thousand lines of code for review the next morning.
Whatever was in this brown juice was heavy enough to down the Mexican, but not the Irish. Where was that fucker anyway? He was not on the ground anymore. My dream of red and blue was no dream, it was a paradise. I looked at the closest camera and grabbed what was left of the rum shit. One, two swigs. “Take that, fucking Gary! I will remain standing.”
As I plotted my future in The Compound, the Polish groaned loudly. Oh shit, I thought. Both of these bottles are fucked. I looked at the man sitting across the table from me. His mouth hung agape, his eyes focused above my head. I turned and saw the TV.
The large screen showed the ambassador from the east in a cab with a woman older than the both of us combined. But she was not acting like an older woman. Her breasts were out and the Polack was going to town on them. She was cackling and rubbing the man between his legs. He pulled out what he had and she was upon it. Now I don’t mind elderly porn in its various forms, but watching the granny slobber on the sagging piece of flesh the Polack was sporting was a little much. I doubted she was a pro, but we all have our kinks, right? Maybe she reminded him of mom. He was not taking the whole thing too well.
I seized my chance. “You find her in the salt mines? Carved her out of the wall, did you? She isn’t doing much for that thing of yours! How many Zloty for her? Fifteen? Twenneh? She lose a bet or something?” The Polish stared at the screen, his mouth open.
“No no no!” he said. “Not fair, not for wife to see!” He grabbed the bit of hair he had and pulled on it.
“Does she lick assholes too?” I asked. “Can I have her phone number? Maybe she has a twin… that would be a first for even me, fingering two grannehs at once!”
The two taxi passengers had moved out of the dashboard camera range, but you could tell she was trying to mount the limpness. Her top flew across the screen and she was moaning in some language I could not make out. Without the visuals, I thought I might be able to get something going, but the booze was upon me and whatever Gary had spiked the brown shit with was not making my life pleasant.
The molester of senior citizens looked at me, his eyes misty. “You can win,” he said. “Now, marriage is over, child will die, I go back to slums of Poland.” He was defeated with five minutes of sacred video. I guess he never expected to see his pecker on national TV with the grandma slurping away on it.
Now I had my own demons; a few on video, some of those on the usual amateur websites. But Gary could not use those against me; no one really cared if I fucked a silicone life-size replica of Dolly Parton on the Santa Monica pier. Apparently this dude had a lot to lose.
“You still get the twenneh grand, old buddy!” I exclaimed. “Maybe you can buy a new kid if yours dies, huh! And the wife won’t care if you were screwing her mother in a cab. She sees that green, all problems are gone! She may even invite mom over for round two... or would it be round three, you stud bastard?”
The Polish was already standing and walking toward the door, his head as low as I think it could possibly go. He kicked the shit-covered Hindu pants across the floor and left the warehouse. The game clock stopped at just over four hours. I lowered my head below the table and vomited.
Whatever Gary had put in the rum shit was finally taking me out. I puked again and shit at the same time. No biggie, I had won The Compound in less than five hours, a hero to the world of reality TV. Two hundred-fifty thousand coming to me. I thought about getting sober and getting my life together but then I thought about Vegas and high-end whores and Thailand.
“Gary!” I yelled. “I’ll send you pictures, motherfucker! I’ll tattoo your name on my cock and fuck some lady-boy ass with it. You failed, old buddy, I am still standing.”
I waved my length at the cameras and fell to the floor. The dream came again, the red and blue flashes that had carried the Messican away to Amazon heaven appeared with the odor of garlic and beer. The world faded away below me, gravity no longer a part of my reality. I was lifting to the spirit in the sky and Norman Greenbaum would have a pile of weed for us to smoke when I arrived. Garcia, too, sailing his black muddy river and planting Old Glory on the surface of the moon. I was okay with all of this - I suppose I had no choice - so I let go and left The Compound.
Be yourself and maybe someone else if you have it in you.
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