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Rebecca Fraser

“You signed a contract.”

I did sign a contract. All the contestants had. We each have our reasons.

I try to concentrate on my breathing as we walk toward the noise. The drumroll is replaced by the catchy theme song for the network’s most popular show. It booms from speakers, and the audience clap in time to the beat, shouting back every word: Keep your feet off the ground, and all your dreams will come true. Let your guard down—doo-doo-be-doo—and it’s goodbye to YOU! The last word is delivered in a fever-scream.

The end of the corridor. A curtain of black fabric. One of the goons sweeps it open and gives me a firm push. The studio lights burn bright, and I blink as I lurch across the stage. The audience yelling, swelling. I shield my eyes to peer into the cacophony, searching for Rosie, Cassidy too, obscene as that is. I know they’re out there—it’s demanded by the contract. The audience relishes the reactions of loved ones; the camera zooming in on their faces, filling the screen, beaming their anguish or elation around the world. But the harsh glare reduces the audience to a sea of writhing silhouettes—a multi-headed beast baying for blood.

A pungent egg-rot smell lingers in the air. Sulfuric acid? That must have been what Wilkins—

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