by Daniel Shebses
|part 2 of 4|
Mike’s eyes bulged. His mouth dried. This wasn’t a fun game anymore. He clicked enter. JULIE ERICKSON... 25%. Mike, panicked, looked up at Julie. She was fine. He looked back to the Deathalator, 28%. It was never that high, and there was no danger to be seen.
“She’s safe,” whispered Mike.
33%... the Deathalator disagreed.
As Mike watched Julie’s chance of death creep up, she picked up the bagel and plastic butter knife. She placed the bagel on its side and began cutting it in half. With each thrust of the knife, the Deathalator percentage jumped... 40%... 42%... 44%. Mike wiped the sweat from his forehead. What is this?
With the bagel cut she opened the jam packet as the Deathalator reached 50%. A one in two chance of dying. A tear formed in Mike’s eye. By the time she finished spreading the jam over the bagel, the Deathalator was past 60% and rising.
Mike’s panic was private. The beauties were unaware of any danger, Jaime Winters was in a world of his own, and Megan and her fat friend were lost in food. Mike’s attention darted around the room. Where is the danger? It was almost empty, nothing to worry about, but there was.
Julie took a big bite from her bagel as the Deathalator increased to 70% but didn’t stop there. Cara had said something that escaped Mike’s hearing but caused Julie to giggle. Mike choked on his saliva as the giggle sent the Deathalator over 80%. She swallowed the mouthful and quickly took another... 90%.
In an instant the laughter was gone and the bagel was on the floor. Julie lunged forward clutching her throat. Her eyes widened in horror as she rose from her seat silently begging for air. The other two girls screamed as Julie stumbled back knocking a table over. Megan looked on fascinated. The Deathalator blinked frantically as 95% was reached. Julie was going to die.
Mike shot up from his seat and looked toward Jaime. They made eye contact for a moment before Jaime’s eyes found the horror... 90%. It went down, thought Mike. Jaime ripped the ear buds from his head and threw down his magazine... 80%. He sprang across the room to the hysterical choking girl and pulled her into him... 70%. He wrapped his arms around her abdomen and thrust upward... nothing... 60%. One more thrust and the bagel soared through her lips. She dropped to the floor and greedily sucked up air.
”You’re alright now,” Jaime said.
Julie’s breathing was choked with tears as she remained on the floor gasping. Mike looked down at the Deathalator. With the crisis over the red blinking was gone. All that remained was “JUILIE ERICKSON... 0.00011%.” She was safe.
Mike walked over to Julie’s table. Cara was on her knees hugging Julie from behind while Cindy was calling campus security for help.
“You’re okay now,” repeated Jaime.
“Thank you,” she responded weakly.
“Thank God you were here,” said Cara.
“Thank God I saw her. I didn’t even notice you guys come in here. I just looked up and she was choking.”
Campus security came swiftly and escorted the three girls to the campus infirmary. Before the girls left, Julie and Jaime exchanged phone numbers as Mike reddened. He didn’t dare tell anyone about the Deathalator. He exited the snack bar without so much as a word and headed back toward his dorm.
What was this thing? Not a joke, that was for sure. Did it predict death or cause it? Mike stopped in his tracks at the thought. The X Phone was a phone no more. Jaime. He was the answer. He got up and saved her, her death wasn’t certain. Receiving the bagel that she had forgotten at the register set forth a chain of events. A chain that would have led to her death, but Jaime had broken the chain. The Deathalator predicted, not caused. Jaime was proof.
When Mike entered his dorm, he found Bill and Adam sitting in the common room. Bill appeared to be as upset as Mike.
“Come on, Mike,” said Adam. “I gotta deal with this one down in the dumps. I don’t want to deal with two.”
“What happened?” asked Mike.
“I can’t fly this weekend. Something’s wrong with the plane I was supposed to use,” moaned Bill.
Considering what had just occurred before his eyes, Mike could not bring himself to care about Bill’s problem. Mike sat on the couch and recalled what had happened. “So Julie is okay?” asked Bill.
“Okay, I’ll call her later. Now what about this Deathalator thing?”
Mike pulled it out and flipped on the Deathalator function.
“It calculates the odds of someone’s death in the near future. Bill, I put in your name before, and it came up as 1.4% which made sense because you were flying solo this weekend for the first time.”
Mike typed in Bill’s name... 0.0014%. Bill and Adam noticed Mike’s confusion at the new odds.
“That’s right, because the plane was grounded and you won’t be able to fly. The chain of events has been interrupted. Just like Jaime Winters in the snack bar. He broke the chain of events that was leading to Julie’s death. It only predicts, not causes. You’re safe now, Bill.”
Bill and Adam eyed each other with amusement. Bill spoke first. “It’s official, Adam. Our friend Mike has finally lost his marbles.”
“It’s because his penis doesn’t get enough exercise.”
As the laughter flowed freely, Mike stormed into the bedroom and slammed the door. Of course they wouldn’t believe him. This was just a bunch of nonsense to them. They didn’t have the Deathalator. They didn’t watch Julie Erickson almost die, he did. This power was in his hands, power he could not comprehend or explain. He plopped on his bed and stared up at the ceiling, still hearing the grounded pilot and the slug laughing through the door.
Friday came and with it the excitement of the game between Northern and Southern State. Mike had one class in the morning but then free time until the game started at eight. Adam and Bill had classes all day, but he would meet up with them later and head to the stadium. He had kept his phone off, but once he was alone in his dorm room he turned it back on, JULIE ERICKSON... 0.00011%. Just checking, thought Mike. She was still safe, and he was able to relax the rest of the day.
There was pandemonium when they arrived at the stadium. The bleachers were packed with frenzied fans. It was a clear, crisp night, football perfection. The enormous stadium lights lit up the field as the cheerleaders riled up the crowd. Adam had painted his beer belly blue and white, the school’s colors. Bill was cheering hard as if he had forgotten about his grounded plane. Most of the school had turned out for this game, and the kickoff was minutes away.
Mike, Bill, and Adam had arrived very early and were able to get great seats on the fifty yard line only ten or so rows up from the field. Julie, with her new-found lease on life, as well as several of her sorority sisters were in the same row a few seats down. She was carefree and enjoying the event she almost didn’t see. Watching her made Mike think about the Deathalator, and he pulled out the X Phone.
Just a few names before the game started thought Mike. He gazed down onto the field and spied Southern State’s starting center and typed his name in, BRYAN O’MALLY... 0.990%, he was pretty safe. Mike typed in another name, tight end JOE BENTON... 0.0992%. Mike saw the running back stretching on the sideline and typed him in, TYRONE JACKSON... 1.44%. From what Mike knew about football, the running back took more abuse than any other position. Any time the running back touched the ball he got hammered. Finally, Mike saw the All American quarterback, GEORGE PARKER... 0.0087%
Mike smiled and flipped the phone into his pocket. The Deathalator was addictive but tonight it was all about the Southern State Beavers in blue and white taking down the Northern State Jackals in brown and white.
“What the hell is he doing?” asked Bill.
Mike followed Bill’s gaze to the other side of the field to Northern State’s benches. Buddy, the school’s mascot, had wandered over and was taunting Omar McGenty. Had Mike known the name of the student in the blue and white beaver suit, he would have entered it into the Deathalator. This guy was looking to die.
The happy beaver pranced about circling McGenty as the linebacker’s rage slowly crept up. His eyes narrowed. His fists clenched. McGenty was in football mode and his first victim would be one annoying beaver. As the beaver began waving his ass in McGenty’s direction, the linebacker approached.
Just then other members of Northern State’s team shoved the beaver away from McGenty and pulled the sadistic linebacker back to the benches. Mike exhaled in relief. McGenty wasn’t just a great linebacker; he was a thug, a brute, and a dangerous man, on and off the field. Originally from South Detroit, he had, at 9 years of age gouged out another kid’s eye with his thumb. At 15 he had beaten up a cop and stolen his car. After a stint in jail, he had gotten himself together more or less, and earned a football scholarship to Northern State where he got to hit people all he liked. Omar McGenty was going to keep Southern State’s offensive line busy.
Northern State had won the coin toss and would receive the ball first. The fans cheered as the ball was kicked off. The runner brought it back to the 23 yard line before being tackled, bringing Northern State’s offense onto the field led by quarterback Nat Coleman. Southern State’s defensive backs had better watch Coleman’s arm, thought Mike. Coleman liked to go deep.
For the next several minutes Coleman slowly moved Northern State up the field, closer and closer to the end zone. When they arrived on Southern State’s 30 yard line, Coleman’s arm came to life. A quick snap from the center, and he launched the ball into the end zone to the waiting hands of Johnny Tice, their star wide receiver. After the extra point kick, it was 7-0 Northern State. Not a good start.
Julie and the sorority girls cheered as George Parker and Southern State’s offense ran onto the field for their turn. The defense, led by Omar McGenty, rushed out to meet them. McGenty looked mad. Mike thought about typing McGenty into the Deathalator, but there was no point. McGenty wasn’t going to die.
Upon the snap Parker tossed the ball back to Tyrone Jackson who rushed up the hole the offensive line gave him to run. He didn’t get far, McGenty saw to that. Mike heard two powerful thumps. The first was McGenty hitting Jackson and the second was Jackson hitting the ground. Mike shook his head. How do you solve a problem like McGenty?
On the next snap Parker threw an interception sending a collective groan through the crowd. The game was off to a bad start as Parker ripped his helmet from his head in frustration. Mike felt badly for Parker. It was rumored that NFL scouts were in attendance tonight looking at him. Mike was sure McGenty knew about that too.
On Northern State’s next possession, they scored another touchdown, making the score 14-0. Afterwards, the game became a dull back and forth between the two teams. Southern State’s defense had woken up and had not given up anymore points, but McGenty and Northern State’s defense had kept them from scoring. Now, with less than two minutes to play in the half, it was still 14-0 and Southern State was slowly marching down the field toward the end zone.
There was desperation in the crowd. It was contagious from the players. To get back into the game Southern State needed a touchdown before the half. After halftime it would be too late. Their batteries were low, their spirits lower. They needed a touchdown. McGenty, for the moment, was being controlled by Joe Benton and two others. Parker had to scramble, but they were moving the ball.
Mike wiped his face, infected with touchdown fever. He eyed the clock. There were eight seconds left in the half and Southern State was on the 7 yard line. It was third down and goal and the fever was rising.
As the ball was snapped the crowd shot to its feet. Parker tossed the ball to Jackson standing several yards back. McGenty had broken through the line and had Jackson in his sights, but Parker rammed McGenty from the side, sending him to the grass. Jackson plowed through into the end zone. The crowd roared, Jackson spiked the ball, and McGenty pounded the ground.
It was 14-7 when the teams went in for halftime, but Southern State was celebrating as though they had taken the lead. They were back in the game and McGenty had been put on his ass. From the sidelines, Mike saw the snarl on McGenty’s face as he raced toward the locker room. He was down but not out.
Copyright © 2009 by Daniel Shebses