Chapter three of 666. Please feel free to enjoy me reading the story, alternatively the story is below for you to read.
Bang! The door slammed shut with such force it made Rhonda jump. She dropped the cup she was washing and it smashed on the floor.
"Jay? Is that you?" Rhonda shouted from the kitchen as she picked up the remains of the cup.
"Do I look like I’m made of money, you clumsy cow?" Jay said as he entered the kitchen.
"Oh. Jay. I wish you wouldn’t sneak up on me. You made me jump slamming the door like that," Rhonda said, turning around to face him. She looked at Jay, searching for compassion.
"That's the problem with you, Rhonda. It’s always someone else's fault. Oh, it's not my fault I dropped the cup. Oh, it's not my fault I spent all your money on clothes and crap. Oh, it's not my fault I’m a dried up old hag who can't have kids. I suppose it’s someone else’s fault that my dinner’s not on the table, either, isn't it? What's the point of you anyway? I could have done something with my life if I hadn't got you round my neck. That’s it, turn the water works on. Thats you to a T, start crying instead of facing the truth. I can’t stand to look at you anymore. Get my tea on, that's all you're good for." Jay walked out of the kitchen, wiping the spit that had ran down his chin.
Rhonda watched him leave, hoping he would turn around and hug her, whispering he was sorry and that he really loved her. She waited, staring at the door before sitting dropping to the floor, with the ruined cup, sobbing to herself. The cup, like her marriage, had once been shiny and new, full of hope and promise. Now they were both broken, a shadow of their former selves.
The sun came through the curtains, lighting up the room. Dust danced in the rays of light, casting minute shadows on Rhonda's closed eyes. They twitched in her sleep as she wrestled with her inner demons. Gradually, the light brought her out of her dream and she slowly opened her eyes. She was smiling as she remembered her dream. She had been back when she and Jay had first met. Everything had been perfect back then. They had both been at college. He had been studying engineering, and she had been studying beauty and makeup. Their dreams were big. Jay was going to open up a car workshop while she offered beauty treatments from their perfect home. Jay had been athletic, and Rhonda had the figure of a ballerina.
"What a perfect couple," people had said. "Their children will be perfect."
That's when the problems had started. They had tried for years to have kids. But it never happened. Eventually, they had been to the doctors and were told the crushing news that Rhonda was infertile. It had destroyed them. Their once perfect life started to slide, barely noticeable at first, but eventually gathering speed, downhill. Jay had never got any further than a dead end job, working for a local mechanic, and Rhonda's self confidence disappeared. She failed every time she tried to start her beauty business. They had financial problems, missed mortgage payments, and then the blame game started.
Jay looked round as he heard the door open, hitting the pause button on his game.
"Morning, sleepy head," he said.
She smiled and picked up his cup as she walked across.
"Look, I’m sorry about last night. I’m just pissed off at the minute. That new lad at work is getting all the overtime. I keep asking, they just make excuses. I’m getting so sick of the crap. You know I don’t mean it." Jay reached up and gave her arm an encouraging stroke.
Rhonda had heard it all before. The abusive comments, followed by the silence, then the apology. It was a vicious cycle that continued on an almost daily basis. But maybe this was what marriage was like. Maybe her friends’ marriages were the same. It’s not as if anyone was going to talk about their personal situations. Anyway, it's not as if anyone else was going to be interested in her now. This was it. This was her life, till death do they part.
"It’s ok, Jay, I’ll go and make us a drink. Just try and relax. Don't think about it. Play your game." Rhonda tried to smile as she walked out of the door.
Jay turned back to his game. It was the latest offering from Wicked Games, called CARnage, brilliant in its simplicity. Create the perfect four wheeled killing machine in your garage. Customize it. Upgrade the engine, brakes, bodywork and weapons. Once you have the perfect vehicle, compete online with other players. The aim was simple. Race around a perfect 3D rendered city, running over, shooting, or cutting up pedestrians as you go. Points were not only awarded for finishing the race first, but for the most gruesome, or stylish, roadkill. That was it. But it had hooked hundreds of thousands of players worldwide, and Jay was amongst the highest ranked. He should be, considering it was how he spent most of his spare time.
Jay's attention was diverted as his phone started dancing across the floor. He had an email. It was from Wicked Games. Reading on, he felt a flutter of excitement. Chosen, he had been chosen from thousands of players to beta test a new feature. Click the link to be redirected to the upload page. He clicked the link. Wait, upload? There was a bright light from the phone. The phone felt like it was pulling on his face, like some monstrous vacuum cleaner. Tugging away, Jay felt his face stretching towards the screen. Then, with a sound like a melon landing on the floor, he was dragged towards the phone. His last impression was his own body sat on the floor holding the phone.
"Ah, Jay, glad you could join us," the man said.
Jay’s head was swirling, he felt faint, he thought he was going to be sick. Jay held his breath, trying to make sure he didn’t vomit. He was sat in a wooden chair. The chair was in a small bare room with a wooden floor, plain white walls, and a lightbulb in the middle casting a feeble light. Opposite to him was the man who had spoken. He was sat in a leather chair in a pinstriped business suit, currently lighting a big fat cigar.
"Don’t worry, you’ll feel fine in a minute."
"Where am I? Am I dreaming?" Jay said. His voice sounding weak and croaky.
"And it speaks. Welcome to Wicked Games," the man said, opening his arms in a gesture that encompassed the room, "or Purgatory, as it used to be called."
"Purgatory? What are you on about? Who are you?" Jay wondered if this was what madness felt like. Maybe he had some kind of mental episode. Maybe he was sleeping.
The man reached into his pocket. "It might be easier if I just give you my business card." He spun a card across to Jay. It curled through the air and landed on Jay’s knee. It simply said, ‘Leonard Reuben - Grim Reaper.’
"Oh, you’ve got to be joking. Is this some kind of sick prank? Is this one of those stupid reality programs that trick you? Where’s your bloody cloak and scythe?" Jay had decided. This was a screwed up dream. It must be the curry he had last night.
"Jay, Jay Jay. This is not the middle ages. That cloak and scythe thing is so done now. Grim Reaper is my job, not who I am. I am my own man, and I do things my own way. Why should I dress up like a bad Halloween costume and come to your house when I can sit here, in my Saville Row suit, smoking my cigar, and get you to come to me? It’s all about making the best use of your time. Maybe if you had learned that you would have been running that garage instead of merely working there." Leonard blew smoke rings into the air. "Anyway, as fascinating as I am, we are here to talk about you. You have been a very naughty boy. Santa was not going to give you anything nice this year, was he?"
‘Look. HA! HA! Good joke. But piss off now. All right? I want to go home. Put me back. Put me back right now!’ Jay had got to his feet. He was scared, but angry at the same time. He stepped closer to Leonard with every word.
"Sit down!" Leonard made a small flick of his wrist. Jay was catapulted back into his chair as if he had been slammed in the chest with a sledge hammer. "You need to understand something, Jay, I am in charge here, you are not. I decide. I choose what happens to you. You are already dead, now we just decide where you go from here."
Jay sat and controlled his breathing. Taking big deep breaths, slowing his heart down.
"Steady on, old chap, you’ll give yourself a heart attack." Leonard started chuckling to himself. It was deep and resonating, like a saw blade being dragged across a brick. "You mortals, really, you’ll be the death of me." He chuckled some more at his own joke.
"What gives you the right to judge me? It’s not like you're a nice bloke, is it?" Jay said.
"No, I’m not. Why do you think I do this job? It’s my punishment. Now, we have a choice to make. Listen carefully, it’s not hard to understand. Like I said. Naughty boy. Abusive to his wife, cheating on his wife, even. Jealous of his friends. How many commandments have you broken? Quite a few, by my list here," Leonard said, glancing at his mobile phone. "You can go straight downstairs to see the big man if you want, find out how bad your eternity is going to be, or you can take a chance. Are you a gambling man, Jay?"
"Downstairs? Big man? That stuff’s not real, is it? It’s just fairy tales that are told to keep people straight, isn’t it? I’m not even religious, I don't believe in that crap. Come on, what’s really happening here?" Jay stared defiantly at Leonard.
"You don’t have to believe, we believe in you. Like I said. You can take your turn in the arena. If you survive, we send you upstairs. If you can convince the man up there that you are repentant, who knows, he might let you stay. But, if you die in the arena, straight down stairs. Wailing, gnashing of teeth, eternal fire, yada yada, you’ve heard it all before. Your answer, Jay? Downstairs or the arena?" Leonard carelessly flicked some ash from his trousers.
"The arena?" Jay asked.
"Close enough. Be gone." Chuckling some more, Leonard flicked his wrist again and Leonard was catapulted through the wall.
Rhonda poured the milk into the tea. There was a letter on the table. It had just come in the post. It was from Wicked Insurance. She’d never heard of it. Ripping open the envelope, she glanced over the contents. It was a life insurance policy. For two million pounds. She couldn’t believe it. She would receive the money on Jay's untimely death. The policy would be backdated. Was that normal? Should she ask Jay? It was addressed to her. There was no mention of payments. With a shaking hand, she signed the letter. The signature was red. Her finger was bleeding and had run down the pen like ink.
Knock! Knock! Rhonda walked across to the door, feeling like she had done something wrong, but not knowing what. There was a tall man standing there, wearing a pin striped suit and smoking a cigar.
"Hello, Rhonda. My name’s Leonard. I'm here to collect our policy."
"But I’ve only just signed it. In fact, I only just received it. What about bank details? What about payments?" Rhonda was confused. This all seemed strange.
"Don’t you worry about payments, Rhonda," Leonard said, blowing smoke rings. "Your husband's paying the price, right now." Leonard turned around and walked away, chuckling.
Rhonda was nervous. What would Jay say about all this? She collected the tea and went upstairs.
"Jay, we need to talk," she said as she opened the door.
The tea poured out of the cups as Rhonda’s arms dropped. Jay was lying on the floor. The control pad was in his hands and blood was dripping from his ear. She knew he was dead.
The first sensation that returned to Jay was touch. He could feel the rough cold surface under his hands. He opened his eyes, blinking as the light hit him. He was outside. He was lying on a path, in a city. It looked familiar.
He stood up, looking around. Why did he know this place? He could see other people walking around in a semi-dazed state. There was a buzzing. Quiet at first, but getting louder, like a swarm of angry wasps. Then, in the distance, a dust cloud came into view. Jay turned around and started to run. It had come back to him. He knew where he was and what was approaching. This was CARnage.
Puffs of smoke erupted around him as one of the cars opened fire. He changed direction and headed to the right. There was a narrow alleyway. He ran into it looking for somewhere to hide. There was nowhere. Just flat brick. There was a screeching behind him. He risked a glance back. A red Corvette had skidded into the alley. Wicked, spinning blades on its wheels sparking and screeching as they scraped against the wall. Fire erupted from the bonnet as machine guns spat flame. Jay felt thuds in his arm as the bullets made contact. Crimson blood burst in front of him, falling back on his face like warm rain. He was close to the end of the alley. Adrenalin fed him a burst of speed. It was close. He escaped the alley and turned down the street. He could hear more skidding as the Corvette cleared the alley and turned to pursue him.
The Corvette's engine was roaring as it closed the distance. It streaked past him, so close he could feel the vibration. His legs went from under him. It felt like he had missed a step. But as he rolled to a stop, bloodied and bruised, he could see his legs on the road. They had been cut off below the knee.
Jay sat up, shaking from the pain. The Corvette had sped off into the distance in pursuit of fresh victims. In front of him was a Dodge. It had six foot scythes on the front, a skull motif on the bonnet, and what looked like a cape on the roof. Jay looked at the windscreen. There were puffs of cigar smoke coming out of the driver’s window. Was that a pin striped suit? The driver was revving the engine.
"No! Stop! I’m real. I’m not an avatar," Jay screamed at the driver.
Smoke billowed from the car's wheels as the driver gunned the car towards him. The spikes hit him in the chest, and his impaled body was carried along with the car. He felt the impact in his back as the car carried him into a low wall, and his ruined body was ripped in half as the car bounced over.
Jay was back in the wooden chair. But this time he was not in a small room. Flames erupted from the floor and bodies were writhing in hot liquid, moaning in pain.
"Ah, Jay. Welcome back. Here with your wife's blessing. Lovely woman, by the way." Leonard was sat in his leather chair blowing smoke rings.
"What are you doing here? Was that you? In the game?" Jay asked.
"Come on, Jay. Did you really think you had a chance? The dice were loaded. Look. Nothing personal, it just gets boring here. Did you like the cape and Scythes? I got the idea from you. I’m nothing if not adaptable." Leonard chuckled, "Consider it a team building exercise. Welcome to the team."
"But what are you doing here?" Jay repeated.
A business card span through the air landing on Jay’s knee. It simply said, "Leonard Rueben - The Devil."
"I thought you said you was the Grim Reaper?" Jay said, looking round.
"Oh, Jay, I wear many hats," Leonard said, chuckling in a deep resonant tone.