Ryan takes part in a contest
|They received it in the mailbox that morning. A pamphlet announcing a Christmas contest worth one thousand dollars first prize money. To do what?
Ryan looked at it again. He squinted his eyes and read it out loud. “All you have to do is show up at 1 Drive Rodeo Side on December 24th at 8 pm. The fun will start then and there. Be on time; only the first five contestants will be allowed to enter and have a shot at the greatest contest of all. It will take approximately three hours of your time. Prize money will be delivered on the spot. No conditions in advance.”
“We sure can use that money,” Lila looked around at their tiny one-room apartment, cluttered with boxes, empty bottles and beer cans, filthy clothing and the dogs, two huge American Staffords in the corner. “Why don’t you give it a try?”
On Christmas Eve, Ryan finished his usual 15th can of beer before heading off to 1 Drive Rodeo Side at the other side of town. His pace wasn’t all that steady, but the alcohol had made him warm and fuzzy inside, and he was ready for a stroll in the cold winter temperature.
It started snowing when he arrived at the Drive Rodeo Side, number 1, a wooden house underneath the subway. Already twenty-five people had gathered around the lamppost in front of the house. The light was flickering every time a train passed by. It was a spooky place.
At eight o’clock sharp, the house's door opened, and a big man wearing a black hood approached the crowd. He had a paper in his hand, and he read the acquirements: women? on the left; men on the right. Under 5 feet 74? to the left; above to the right. Without tattoo? On the left; with on the right.
Ryan found himself with three others in one group, the majority in the other.
The man then dismissed the group saying only four of them would qualify for the contest. Without much ado, he shoved Ryan and the other three men inside the house and closed the door.
“Welcome, gents,” he smiled. “You are about to take part in a fun activity. May the best man win?” Before anyone could utter a word or ask a question, he disappeared.
Ryan looked around. It was a dark room, without any windows, one light hanging in the middle. There were bottles of wine and glasses on a side table. The rest of the room was empty. The other three were as uneasy as he was. The four of them just stood there, looking at each other.
A door opened, and the man entered again, dressed in a white lab coat. “This is a scientific experiment,” he explained. “I am going to ask each of you to strip and let me have a look at your body. If I like what I see, you participate in the contest; if not, you’ll be asked to leave.”
Ryan thought about the one thousand dollars and took off his clothes immediately. One man refused and was let outside; the two others reluctantly did what was required.
The man then inspected them one by one, taking measurements of the tattoos on arms, legs, and back. He made notes while doing this. Nobody spoke or uttered a sound.
After thirty minutes, he looked Ryan in the eye and said, “You’re the man I am looking for. You won the contest. The money is yours. You have the most beautiful tattoo on your back. Please stay while I let those other contestants go.”
Ryan dressed quickly and walked to the table. He poured himself a glass of red wine, took one gulp, and poured another one. He felt excited. That was easy money. Lila would be so pleased.
It was then when he felt dizzy in his head. Within minutes he passed out.
When he woke, he was lying strapped on his stomach with a bare torso. The man in the lab coat hovered over him, in his hand a scalpel.
“Your tattoo will be the most beautiful at my exhibition. Thank you for that.”
It was then when the excruciating pain began. Ryan lost consciousness again.
The police found him dead in a dark alley in the early morning of Christmas. His body one bloody mess.
As Lila cried to the officer: “The tattoo of a beautiful dragon on his back was gone!”
Word Count: 749