Word Count 500
Playing for Keeps
by G. Ackman
Janine’s attention was not on the game. They had been playing it for hours now and it didn’t seem like it was going to end anytime soon. Her backside hurt from sitting so long and she was tired, hungry, and very grumpy. They had finished the last of the peanut butter about two hours ago and there just wasn’t anything else. Gerald had suggested the game as a way to not only pass the time, but also to determine who won the prize sitting conspicuously on the side table.
Janine thought it must be evening, but she could no longer tell. The curtains on the windows remained firmly closed. She had opened them once, eight or nine days ago, but the sight of her neighbor, kindly old Mr. Nichols who had stepped out to let his little dog Pogo go to the bathroom, followed by the scuttling forward of eight monolithic legs bristling with stiff black hairs like video cables, and the quick snatch of the two of them by a face that her brain could neither fathom nor process was enough. Not even time for a scream. Her hands had flown to her face and she stumbled backward. Gerald had closed the curtains, led her back to the chair, and they had remained cocooned ever since.
It had started almost two weeks ago. People leaving for work or the grocery store and never returning. Dogs howling for a few days, then falling silent. Then the mind-numbing arrival of the first threads. White floating strands that burned where they met bare skin. Only a few at first. Then more of them, settling around trees, obscuring the leaves, looking like….well, like giant spiderwebs. By then everyone had retreated indoors and watched through windows, until they too became covered. No one knew what the houses looked like from the outside, but the muted daylight seen through a blanket of white when one twitched open the curtain provided more than enough imagery for the imagination.
Without talking about it, Janine and Gerald had known that sooner or later, a decision would have to be made. And this game of Monopoly was it. Winner takes the prize. Their Colt .45. One bullet left. Four of the others expended in a futile attempt to fight off the hideous predators waiting outside their door. One a humane sacrifice – a quick and painless death for their beloved dog, Toby. Now, the gun lay there on the table like both an accusation and a promise.
Another time around the board. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, do not get out of here alive. Passed Boardwalk. Passed the cheap little Baltic properties. They were on the other side of the board now and then, with the roll of a seven – oh how ironic – Gerald landed on Illinois – her property. It had three hotels on it and Gerald had less than $300. She won. Lucky her. She walked away from the table, picked up the gun, and fired.