They had all come so far. Each from their own districts, with their own unique (weird, kooky, dark, inspiring, humorous) perspectives on the world. They had so much to say, to the world and to each other. They made friends, formed tribes and communities, and encouraged each other not to quit. When the chips were down, they commiserated, rallied, ranted, or plotted -- but still they did it together. They saw how beautiful each of them were as individuals: how they enriched the world with their wordcrafted magic-tricks, conjured out of thin air and marvelously inscribed on the internet big-screen for all to see.
They became connected to each other, through digital spider-threads reaching across vast distances, forming bonds strong as steel cables, but fragile as butterflies -- broken all to easily through accident or neglect. Still they were all together, writing and running as fast as they could just to get to the top, and inevitably pushing each other out of the way on the way up. All reaching for that shiny golden apple placed at the summit.
[What maniacal goddess placed it there?]
They are a symbol of a nation united and divided by the same harsh reality: if you have a contest, there will be many contestants, and only a few winners. Is that justice? Is that fair? Can equality exist in such a system? Either you give everyone a gold star (rendering all the prizes meaningless since everybody brought one home that day) or you have only a select few left standing on top of the podium with the much-coveted medals of achievement (and $ubstantial ca$h incentive$) while everyone else stands looking up at them enviously. That's the American Way, baby.
[If the prizes were large enough, those-pulling-the-strings wondered, how far would all of them go to win?]
But of course, if you participate in the Vocal Hunger Games, deep down you understand how the game works: it build communities and destroys them too. DESIRE is inscribed on that golden fruit forbidden to all but the winners, and on the other side DEVOURER. If you lose, you resent the winners (even if they're your friends and you know they deserved recognition). And if you win, you know they resent you (because they're your friends and you know they deserved recognition too). Some savor the sweet&sour bitter-sweet flavor of success achieved, while others look on with sad, thirsty, bitter looks of defeat, empty-handed and tired.
[The maniacal goddess snickers to herself, pleased at the all the pretty things the contestants have made for her approval and which they've trampled on in their eagerness to be labeled "the best" or now thrown away in despair]
The Winners bask in their 5 minutes of golden sunshine, cheered by the fans in their echo chamber. Until the next episode, when someone else will be featured on the podium.
The Losers walk away, disgusted, off to nurse their bruised egos in some hole-in-the-wall digital tavern or Discord group somewhere. Some cry. Some swear off such fruitless activities forever. Some plot revenge -- against the system, against the establishment.
Wait, weren't they all on the same team?
Is THIS the American Dream?
You bet it is.
And we all can take it or leave it.
The maniacal goddess doesn't care: her prizes are labelled 'for the fairest', but she is never fair.
She treats us all the same -- because she loves the game. The chaos. The hope-filled dream caterpillars created and crushed like worms beneath her shoe. She will never stop as long as the players are alive, and if they die in their attempts or batter themselves to death against her glass ceiling, all the better. Because that's entertainment. And all the gods love to be entertained -- they have nothing else to do.
* * * *
I have no answers to this riddle. I don't know how to 'win' this game, or if 'winning' is even possible in the end. But I'd just like to say to all of you who put your heart and soul into your work, thanks for playing the Vocal Hunger Games. Your readers care, your friends care, and most importantly, you give a damn.
That's all that really matters, right?
About the Creator
Eternal Student: literature, poetry, history, art, and philosophy. English Teacher. Writer & painter. Traveller & skier (when there's $$$). I'm young enough to be foolish, yet old enough to know better. Lover of dark & beautiful things.