Strawberry Roulette, Part Two

The Afflicted

[870]Okay. Normally I don’t write new stuff except Flash Fiction and guest blog posts during the non-summer months. I really liked Welcome Home parts 1 – 4, and wanted to expand the universe. You all know I really hate outlining, so this story is evolving. You may or may not have noticed, I write my novellas and novelettes in the third person omniscient perspective and my short stories and flash fiction in the first person limited perspective. I’m going to continue these stories and post them as flashes, but I’m going to rewrite them in the proper perspective when I compile them.
 
For part two, you’ll need to mentally delete the first two and very last lines. Here is Strawberry Roulette, Part Two:
 
***
 
I gripped the table in front of me. Unseen hands removed the shackles and freed me. I couldn’t stand – not yet. I was still processing the entire event.
 
I won.
 
It was still a bit surreal. I sat there mentally calculating my winnings. My three pounds of sugar would secure her passage and mine across the border. I looked at the other buy-ins. The gold was enough to buy her freedom.
 
I won.
 

“Look at him, he’s speechless.”

 
I was aware of a hand grasping my shoulder.
 
“Come on man, say something!”
 
I looked to the left and saw a man dressed in a cream suit. It was a stark contrast to the rest of the room and my deceased opponents. Everything was covered in the sweat and grime of a hard life. I spoke the only thing on my mind: “I won.”
 
“Well, of course you did.” He gestured towards the steel table. “You still have your head, I’d call that a win any day.”
 
“What’s next?”
 
He produced an old zippo lighter and a cigarette. Tapping the cigarette on the zippo he smiled and said, “Let’s get you cleaned up. I’ll have your winnings delivered to your room.”
 
As he rolled the striker with his manicured thumb, the scent of lighter fluid permeated. Cigarettes were expensive enough – all the American tobacco plantations were repurposed to grow sugar cane. What really captured my attention was that zippo. The metal gleamed in the bright light – it was polished, almost a mirror reflecting a whiskered chin as he sucked on the cigarette. The glowing red ember transfixed me. He smiled, blew out a noxious cloud of blue smoke and slapped the lighter closed against the heel of his hand.
 
His brow furrowed and each word was emphasized by a flick of the cigarette. “You okay, man? You don’t look so well.”
 
I felt sweat break out across my brow. My back was sticking to my shirt. If I let go of the table my hands shook terribly. I felt trapped. I had to get out of the room immediately.
 
I’m hungry.
 
He turned to one of his lackeys and said, “Take this guy to his room. Keep an eye on him, though. If he transforms, take care of him.” He pointed the fingers still holding the cigarette at me. “Don’t worry, no charge for the room. I gotta protect my investments.” He nodded and the lackey helped me to my feet. I had to clasp my hands together to stop the trembling.
 
***
 
“What’s your name?” I asked the man assisting me when we entered my room.
 
His eyes never left mine and he replied. “Ramiro.”
 
“Relax Ramiro, I’m not gonna transform. It would’ve happened already.”
 
“This, I know. That’s not what concerns me.”
 
“What then?”
 
He helped me to the bed before continuing, “My mother was diabetic before the outbreak.”
 
“Meaning?”
 
A knock on the door interrupted his response. He walked to the door and had a brief conversation with the person on the other side. He closed the door and placed a large canvas bag on the floor and a silver tray on a dresser. He picked up a bowl and sat on the bed next to me.
 
“Drink this.”
 
He held the bowl to my lips and with is other hand grasped the back of my head. I tried to recoil, but he held me firm.
 
Lowering the bowl he said, “I’m perfectly willing to let you die from an insulin overdose, but I think we can help each other.”
 
I tried to protest, but my vision was fading on the edges. He released my head and I fell against a pillow.
 
“You will most certainly die unless you drink this.”
 
My vision was nearly gone. I succumbed to his actions and drank.
 
“You’re one hell of a foolish man.”
 
The contents of the bowl were thick. It smelled like raw eggs and I almost gagged as it slid down my throat. He relented when I gagged.
 
“What the hell is that stuff?”
 
“Raw eggs. You need protein and a lot of it. Drink!”
 
I drank the entire contents of the bowl. I must’ve swallowed half a dozen yolks. The blackness encroaching my vision seemed abated.
 
Ramiro just saved my life.
 

Just before I fell asleep, I wondered what it would cost me.
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About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degrees in Computer Systems and Applications and Applied Human Behavior. View all posts by Mark Gardner

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