Overpopulation controlled by cannibalism.
We the People Are Good to Eat.
“More Meat to Eat”
At 7:37 AM, on the 1378th Level of the City Building of Manhattan, thousands of people moved along the West 55th Street Corridor, going east from the 9th Avenue to the 8th Avenue corridor. Many teenage students walked among them, heading toward their local Public High School; HS L-1378-55, which stood between 8th and 7th.
As the crowd moved along, they went past an enormous advertising billboard, displaying a photographed line of full figured Warrior Women dressed in bikinis, while armed with swords and spears. Shrunken human heads were tied on their belts. Superimposed above them, across the top of the photo, was the slogan, “Paradise Meats. Healthy Tasty Treats”
Louise Torelli, a dark haired senior who wore glasses, walked beside tall, blonde, Alyce Vanderland. Like all their classmates, both girls carried their personal edu-computers. They also wore the lightweight school jackets, and knee length skirts, along with a pair of shrunken heads on each of their belts.
As they walked along beside the poster of the women warriors, Alyce began to sing.
“We are the Warrior Girls!
We‘re brave and deadly pearls!”
Louise joined in the song.
“Angels of Death at play,
When in Combat Games we slay!
“We kill with sword and spear!
When we’re killed we show no fear,
While we help supply the meat,
For everyone to cook and eat!”
Louise told Alyce, "I'm not sure if I want to join the Warrior Girls Squad this year. Now that I've got that college scholarship, I've got something more to look forward to than being packaged meat."
Alyce asked, "Then why don't you try out for cheerleader with me?"
"Me?" Louise laughed. "A cheerleader?"
"Much less risk of getting killed. They only hang one cheerleader a game, and that's only from the losing team. Besides, it's a great way to meet guys."
"Forget it Alyce. I had enough of being a team's girlfriend, when I was a warrior girl. The next time for me'll be with a guy who thinks I'm special."
"But if you're not on either the warrior squad, or the cheerleaders, you and your family won't get those extra rations."
"Me and my family have decided that my getting into college is worth the sacrifice. I won't look as sexy, or get as many dates, but no one in my family will starve."
Half a block behind them, 17 year old Karen Bennet moved with the crowd. She was dressed in a lightweight, dark green jacket, with the words "HS L-1378-55", printed in yellow on the back. She also wore a light blue skirt, hanging to her knees. Like all the other students in the crowd, the hungry, blonde Karen carried her educomputer, and like many of them, she also had a pair of shrunken human heads tied on her belt.
She was about halfway down the block, when her steady boyfriend David Krendell came up beside her.
“Hey Karen!” He was irritated.
Like most of the people in the City Building of Manhattan, he was a little thin and his energy level was low. She was also thin and not very energetic. A daily ration of sausages and meat patties was allocated for each citizen, but the portions were small.
Karen was annoyed. "Hi Dave."
"I hear” he accused “you're planning to try out for cheerleader?"
She snapped at him. “Since I already fought on the Warrior Girls Squad last year, I’m now qualified to join the cheerleaders. All cheerleaders and their families receive triple rations for the entire season, just like the warrior girls. Why not?"
"You might be the cheerleader who gets hanged, after we lose a game."
"The extra rations will improve the health of me and my whole family for the entire season. Isn't that worth the risk?"
“I wish you didn’t have to take that risk at all.”
She sighed, “And I wish you weren’t such a wimp, Dave.”
"I’m not being a wimp.” He told her, “The extra rations are intended to make the cheerleaders fill out, so they'll look sexy, instead of unhealthy."
She laughed, "You've got a complaint about that?"
"The girls on the cheerleading squad are expected to do it with every guy on the Warrior Team. I'm the Team's equipment handler, so I know everything that goes on. I want you to be my girlfriend alone. Not the entire Team's."
"I know what'll be expected of me, and I don't see the point of me being a well fed, sexy cheerleader, if I'm not a team girlfriend. They're the girls who have all the fun."
"What about me?"
She groaned. "You're too much of a wimp, and not all that much fun."
Karen stepped away from Dave.
Two months later, a population trimming and meat harvest combat game was being held in the gymnasium of Public High School L-1378-55. The warrior guys and girls on the H.S. L-1378-55 team, fought to the death, against the guys and girls on the Warrior Team from the L-879-27 Jihadist Religious Academy. Both teams were armed with swords or spears, and circular shields. Blood dripped from their blades and from their shields.
The Jihadist Statement of Faith contained the Declaration: “We are God fearing people who worship God with human sacrifices. We observe Combat Games as Sacred Rites of Sacrificial Worship.”
On the sidelines, the H.S. L-1378-55 Band played the ancient melody, of the Notre Dame Fight song, while members of the alumni tried to remember the words to their Alma Mater's version.
"Fight! Fight-for Fifty-five
Karen Bennett was among the H. S. L-1378-55 cheerleaders, who wore tight, green and yellow tee shirts, and very short skirts. They leapt high while whirling about, waving their green and yellow pompoms, and chanting.
"Jimmy Haskins--He's our man!
If he can't do it--Landis can!
Larry Landis--He's our man!
If he can't do it--Patterson can!
Mike Patterson--He's our man!
If he can't do it--Denski can!
Sarah Denski--She's our gal!
If she can't do..."
The seats were filled with cheering students and faculty from both schools. Whenever an H.S. L-1378-55 team blade cut deep, through a Jihadist Academy Warrior, the fans in the home team bleachers cheered. The Jihadist fans cheered, whenever one of their blades impaled an H.S. L-1378-55 guy or girl.
Whenever a Warrior Guy or Girl was killed, the one who killed him or her shouted,
"Welcome to Paradise!”
Warrior guys and girls from both teams lay dead or wounded on the gym floor.
Dave Krendell sat in the gymnasium's home team seats, with Louise Torelli beside him. Dave would be taking her to the Homecoming Dance that night. This afternoon, Dave's attention was not on the home team in their dark green and yellow uniforms, or the visitors in the red and blue. Dave Krendell's attention was on Karen Bennett.
Louise sat beside him thinking. He still wants to do it with his ex-girlfriend. He doesn't look at me that way; so you can keep it in your pants tonight Davey.
The Scoreboard displayed:
KILLS WOUNDS GOALS
Whenever any team member fell dead or wounded, the number on the scoreboard, under 'Kills" or "Wounds", increased by 1.
On the opposite side of the gym, the Jihadist Academy Cheerleaders waved their black and red pompoms and chanted.
More meat to eat!
But we're not thrilled!
More meat to eat!
See that score!
More meat to eat!
We want more!
More meat to eat!"
Each goal consisted of a pair of fifteen-foot high vertical posts, standing five feet apart, connected by a horizontal bar across the top.
Mike Patterson and Sarah Denski stood together, blocking the H.S. L-1378-55 goal post. They both were armed with swords and shields. Mike fought a warrior guy, who was equally armed. Sarah fought a warrior girl, who also fought with a sword and shield.
Sarah got her sword around the girl's shield, plunging it deep through her left breast.
The girl cried out.
Then she laughed. "You're still not gonna win!"
Sarah told her, "Welcome to Paradise!”
The Jihadist Academy girl fell dead and the home team's kill score rose to 13.
In the seats, the home team fans cheered.
Along the H.S. L-1378-55 sideline, Cheerleaders, Alyce Vanderland and Karen Bennet stood beside each other. Alyce waved her hand out toward the fighting.
She asked, “Did you see how Francine just got herself killed? She kept her shield down. That was so careless.”
“Francine wasn’t being careless.” Karen told her, “She deliberately got herself killed ‘cause she was pregnant. That’s the right way to handle it. That’s how I’d handle it.”
Alyce smirked. “Then she was careless.” The girl hesitated. “No. She got the same mandatory implant that we all get. So what happened? Did her implant break? That does happen every now and then.”
“No. You see, she was a Catholic girl. They have the freedom to choose not to receive the implant, on Religious grounds.”
“Then good for her. She made sure she really would be welcomed into Paradise. On the other hand, if she was pregnant and Catholic she might have a problem.”
“Well I attend a Presbyterian Church.” Karen said, “I’ve accepted Christ as Savior. That’s all anyone really needs to enter Paradise.”
Both girls returned their attention to the action out on the Gym floor.
Mike Patterson's opponent stabbed his sword through Mike's ribs; and shouted, "Welcome to Paradise!”
Then Mike Patterson fell dead, and his opponent ran through the home team's goal post.
On the scoreboard, the visitors' Kill number rose to 18. The Goal score was now,
A loud groan rose from the home team's fans.
In the cheerleading squad, Alyce Vanderland said, "Oh crap! Mike Patterson's just been killed. Now I don't have a date for tonight. I can't show up alone."
There was less than one minute left to play and the coach had decided to let the clock run out.
On the opposite side of the gym, a loud victorious cheer rose from the fans in the Jihadist Team's seats.
The visiting cheerleaders' voices echoed the victory chant.
"Now we've won the game!
More meat to eat!
Bet they're sorry we came!
More meat to eat!
Now they'll hang their bitch!
More meat to eat!
'til the whore can't twitch!
More meat to eat!"
Karen Bennett called out to the other cheerleaders. "Forget the Game! One of us'll still be crowned as Homecoming Queen tonight!"
Alyce told her, "That's easy for you to say Karen. Your date hasn't just had a kill scored off him, just six hours before the Dance. Now I'm not gonna have anyone to bring me to the Dance, or do it with me afterward."
"It's all part of being a cheerleader Alyce."
Now the time had come for one of the losing team's cheerleaders to be hanged. Mrs. Ramierez, the cheerleaders' faculty advisor, now approached the squad. The firmly built, full figured, God fearing Jihadist woman, wore a tight tee shirt and shorts. She carried a closed carton box, with strings hanging over the edge. The girls quieted down, and began trembling.
Then the girls gathered around Mrs. Ramierez. One at a time, each girl took hold of one string, and drew it out of the box. Each string had an empty noose tied on the opposite end.
Karen took hold of one string, and drew out a cheerleader doll with the noose around its neck.
Karen began to tremble. The other girls all looked relieved.
She thought; I’m going to die now. Be brave. Die brave. I’ve accepted Christ as Savior. I’m going to Paradise
The H.S. L-1378.55 warrior team had come to the sideline. They now approached Karen, with blood dripping from their swords, spears and shields. She stood still, fearlessly waiting for them with her hands at her side.
She told them. "I'm ready."
Karen then walked across the gym floor between two warriors, Jimmy Haskins and Larry Landis, stepping around the bodies of dead warrior guys and girls from both teams. They escorted her to the home team goal post, where a rope with a noose had been tossed over the horizontal bar, and was dangling at shoulder height.
She thought; I’m going to be killed, cooked and eaten. It’s the right thing to do. I’m going to Paradise.
Larry and Jimmy stood beside Karen inside the goal post. She faced out across the gym floor, while every warrior on the H.S. L-1378-55 team, every visiting team member, both cheerleading squads, faculty advisors, and officials from both schools, all gathered around the goal post.
This is part of being a warrior girl. She thought, I’ve killed other warriors. They died brave, and are now in Paradise. I’ll die just as brave. I’ll be in Paradise.
Jimmy Haskins stood behind her.
She felt Jimmy's hands grab her wrists, and pull them behind her back. Then she felt the cold metal handcuffs, snap shut around her wrists.
The shivering Karen said, "You'd better hang me quick. I don't want to be late for the Homecoming Dance tonight."
Jimmy, Larry, and the others who heard her laughed. Karen also laughed, as Jimmy put the noose around her neck.
She felt the noose tighten, and she was yanked straight up off the floor.
She thought; Die brave! Die brave! Our Father Who art in Heaven…
She began gagging and squirming, as she was lifted above the heads of everyone surrounding her. Some of them had to duck away from her thrashing legs. She was lifted higher, so her kicking feet passed safely above everybody's head. She could see team members and the cheerleaders below her and everyone in the seats. They were all cheering her moment of glory.
In the stands, Louise also cheered heartily at the death of Dave's ex-girlfriend.
Dave prayed silently. "Lord Jesus. Please keep Karen alive. I love her."
Karen hung there, feeling her throat being crushed, while everyone standing around her and in the stands shouted.
"Welcome to Paradise!”
Karen's throat was crushed shut. She could get no more breath. She continued squirming. Her awareness of everything was quickly vanishing. She was barely aware of the gym, the guys and the girls on the team, the cheerleading squad, and the people in the seats.
She no longer heard or saw anything. The pain was gone. She no longer felt cold. She was aware of nothing.
Karen's ghost came out of her body.
The gym was dark and empty, except for the bodies of the slain members of both teams, who'd remain where they'd fallen, until they were collected by the men from the West Side Meat Company.
She saw herself dangling ten feet above the gym floor, with her neck crushed tight at the end of a stiff rope, her wrists handcuffed behind her back, her breasts thrust forward inside her tight tee shirt, and her bare legs had no more kick left in them.
I was a good hang, she thought. Didn't whimper, hold back, struggle, cringe, or act pathetic. Good looking hang too.
Inside her mind, Karen heard the voice of David Krendell.
"Lord Jesus. Please keep Karen alive. I love her."
Then Karen was back inside her body hanging by her neck, at the end of the rope, ten feet above the gym floor. Her throat was no longer crushed. The noose was no tighter than it had been when Jimmy first put the loop around her neck.
The lights were back on in the gym. Men from the West Side Meat Company were collecting the bodies; tossing them onto wheeled skids, which they pushed around the floor with jacks. None of them looked up at her. She was shivering in the cold, and nobody paid her any attention.
She heard one man say, "Hey. The hanged girl."
He was told, "We'll take her down last."
"No. I just saw her move."
"Just muscular contractions. Dead people do that all the time."
The men continued their work, methodically collecting every member of both teams, who'd been killed in that afternoon's game.
They all look very comfortably dead, Karen thought, as she hung there gagging, cold and shivering, unnoticed by the workmen for more than a half-hour. It felt like a hundred years.
Then someone finally came over to the goal post and undid the knot, where the other end of the rope was tied around the post.
Karen came down fast. When she hit the floor, she made a loud groan.
The workmen came running over to Karen, and removed the noose.
"Look. Her neck's undamaged."
"Then she can attend her Homecoming Dance tonight."
The tables had been moved out of the H.S. L-1378-55 Cafeteria. Green and gold streamers radiated from the revolving prism lights in the center of the ceiling. Beneath the radiating streamers, teenage boys wearing suits and ties danced to the beat of recorded music, with High School girls wearing formal dresses. Chaperons drifted around the couples on the dance floor.
A stage had been set up against a wall. A simulated throne had been set up on the stage. A sign on the wall above the throne declared:
"H.S. L-1378-55 ANNUAL
Jimmy Haskins danced with Alyce Vanderland.
That afternoon, while Karen was still twitching, the crowd had begun to disperse. Jimmy saw Alyce standing beside the body of Mike Patterson.
Jimmy came over to her.
"So Alyce," he said. "I see you've suddenly become a candidate for Homecoming Queen, without a date for the Dance."
"And you've just put yourself in the same situation Jimmy."
"Then maybe we ought to help each other out tonight."
"Sure Jimmy. I'd love to."
She looked up at the dying Karen. "'It's part of being a cheerleader.'"
Whoever the Homecoming Queen was, she'd be crowned around 9 P.M. Then she'd do it with whoever her date was. Win or lose, Alyce would be doing it with Jimmy that night.
Tonight, Dave Krendell danced with Louise Torelli.
That afternoon, right after the game, Louise had come over to Dave, who'd stood at the foot of the seats, looking at the dead Karen Bennet, hanging at the end of a rope.
"So Dave," she'd said, "your former girlfriend's had her moment of glory."
He said, "She told me she wanted to be a Teams' girlfriend Louise. She said they're the girls who have all the fun."
She told him, "It wasn't all that much fun for me."
That night, as they danced, she asked, "Tell me Dave. If Karen Bennett hadn't been hanged this afternoon, and you were still dating, what'd you two be doing tonight?"
"The same thing we're doing."
"I meant dancing."
"Oh." She sounded relieved.
Then she asked, "What about doing it?"
He smiled and stood taller.
"Why thank you Louise. I know we haven't been dating that long. I didn't think you'd want it tonight."
She felt like saying, "Oh I do. With you. Tonight."
What she said was, "I wasn't talking about us Dave."
"Then what are you talking about?"
"You and Karen Bennet." She said, "If you were with her, that's what you'd be doing after the Dance, wouldn't you?"
"Oh yes. That would have gone with her being a candidate for Homecoming Queen. Either reward for the winner, or consolation for the loser."
He held her a little tighter.
"Or it can be a very pleasant time for us."
She smiled. Then she drew back.
"I'm sorry Dave." she told him. "It's never been a pleasant time for me. I've never been able to enjoy it, and neither would you."
She thought, Why did I have to tell him that? Now I've lost him for sure.
Dave said, "Louise, there's no rush. Listen. I'm glad to be with someone who I know's still gonna be around, after all the combat games are over."
Louise drew herself up closer. She put her lips up near his ear.
She whispered, "You won't have to wait that long."
Then she gave him a chaste kiss on the cheek.
As the music blared, he and Louise danced under the flashing lights. Dave noticed that people had stopped dancing. They were all turning their attention to the entrance.
Karen Bennet stood alone in the entrance, wearing the dark green strapless gown that she'd bought for this occasion. The recorded music still blared out a lively beat, but no one was dancing. Even the people at the refreshment table had stopped munching on the fried Jihadist Warrior sausages.
Karen's gaze moved across every face in the crowd. Everyone in the crowd looked at each other.
Then Karen's gaze stopped moving. She was staring at Jimmy Haskins.
She thought, He's dancing with Vanderland, most likely to be chosen Homecoming Queen.
Karen started heading across the floor, straight toward Jimmy and Alyce.
Someone said, "Her neck's undamaged."
That was Dave Krendell's voice. She stopped and turned in his direction.
He's with his new girlfriend Louise Torelli, Karen thought. That nerdy girl with glasses, always gets top grades, and has plans for college.
Karen walked up to her former boyfriend.
She said, "You prayed for me, didn't you?"
"How did you know?"
"I heard your voice in my head."
Karen now turned away and walked up to Jimmy and Alyce.
She spoke to Alyce. "Are you planning to do it with my date, who stood me up tonight?"
Jimmy said, "Stood you up? I thought you were dead."
Alyce was taken aback. All she could think of to say was, "Well, I'd had a date with Mike Patterson tonight, but he was killed during the game; and after the game...you didn't look...like you'd be... available...for any guy to…do it with...ever again. It's the same thing you've done.
"'It's part of being a cheerleader.'"
Karen shouted, "The noose was tied incorrectly!"
Everyone heard that. They relaxed, and resumed dancing.
Jimmy said, "Now don't go blaming this on me. All I did was pull the rope. Your former boyfriend Krendell's the equipment handler. You ought to be asking him what happened."
Karen called out, "Mr. Avery! Is my name still on the ballot for Homecoming Queen?"
"Yes!" The Principal was a little tongue-tied. "Karen! You're still eligible!"
She again spoke softly to Jimmy.
"Then after I win, I'll be very available, for the complimentary fking that every candidate is supposed to receive from her date."
"Forget it.” said Jimmy. "Our date was canceled when you were."
Alyce repeated, "'Part of being a cheerleader’."
Karen asked, "Do you expect me to be the only candidate for Homecoming Queen who'll go home without doing it tonight?"
Alyce said, "We expected you to be getting ground into a pile of sausages tonight. It's wrong that you're not."
Alyce and Jimmy resumed dancing. Everyone seemed to be dancing, except Karen. She stood to the side with her arms folded in front of her.
Jimmy and Alyce danced a few steps away from Karen. Dave and Louise were also nearby.
Alyce called out, over the music. "Do you see that Karen? Your former boyfriend David Krendell's with the studious Louise Torelli tonight. I bet she's not going home without getting it tonight!"
Karen answered over the loudness of the music.
"It's over with him and me! I hope he gives her a really good one tonight! The horny nerd could use one!"
Louise stopped dancing. She stepped away from Dave, who followed her as she brought herself over to Karen.
"I heard what you just said about me."
Karen said, "I just meant that I hoped you'd have a very pleasant evening; if you're enough of a woman to handle it."
"Oh I am," said Louise, "and I will. We horny nerds know how to keep a guy around; unlike you."
She and Dave moved away from Karen, and resumed dancing.
Mr. Avery walked up to Karen.
He said, "I want to see you in my office on Monday morning, Miss Bennet."
At 9 o'clock that evening, Mr. Avery stood on the stage, behind a microphone. All the candidates, who included Karen, Alyce, Sarah Denski, Debbie Sheridan and Carlotta Obregon, stood on the stage behind him, in front of the throne.
Mr. Avery held a 3" by 5" card in front of him, and spoke into the mike.
"This year's winner, as Manhattan High School L-1378-55's Homecoming Queen is..."
A recorded drum roll was played.
He read from the card. "Miss Alyce Vanderland!"
The students cheered. Some girls sighed. Everyone applauded. Karen and the four other candidates forced themselves to smile.
As Alyce stepped out of the line, heading toward the throne, she moved close to Karen, and gave her the finger.
Karen stopped smiling.
Alyce seated herself upon the throne. Mr. Avery placed a tiara upon her head. She sat there grinning victoriously at everyone.
On Monday morning, Karen Bennet and Louise Torelli sat in Mr. Logan's 2nd Period, 12th Grade History Class, taking notes on his lecture.
He told them, "The natural environment of the entire Earth had become so badly polluted, that all life would have perished, unless drastic measures were taken. That's why the City Buildings were constructed. They were meant to be places of refuge for the entire Earth. Once they were completed, everyone on Earth entered the City Buildings. Then the pollution was sealed out, and everyone was sealed in, and this is where we've been living for the past 1,322 years, with only one another to eat, and we thank God for every meal."
Louise Torelli raised her hand and asked, "Isn't it true that conditions weren't really as bad, as we've been taught? I've read about a group of Environmental Terrorists, who called themselves the 'Kaczynski Brigade'."
"Oh?" The teacher asked, "And what have you read about the Kaczynski Brigade?"
"What I've read," she told him, "is that they said they loved humanity, but they hated individuals. They got their hands on a number of biological and nuclear weapons. Then they threatened to use them, unless the City Buildings were built and occupied; and our wussy ancestors gave in."
Some of her classmates laughed, at Louise's use of the word "wussy".
Mr. Logan said, "The influence of the Kaczynski Brigade, and what you call the 'wussiness' of our ancestors, has been greatly exaggerated by certain present day historians, whose work you have obviously read, Miss Torelli."
There was a knock on the door. A student monitor entered the room, came over to the desk and handed a note to Mr. Logan.
He said, "Miss Bennet. Mr. Avery wants to see you in his office now."
Karen stood up, picked up her edu-computer and left the classroom, escorted by the Student Monitor.
When Karen entered the Principal's office, she found Dave Krendell seated across the desk from Mr. Avery.
Today the Principal had the rope from Karen's hanging, coiled in the middle of the desk, directly in front of him.
She said, "You sent for me Mr. Aviary? I mean Avery."
"Miss Bennet." He said, "I know that many students find it amusing to call me 'Mr. Aviary' or 'Mr. Birdhouse.' I hear them twittering as I walk by. I find it best to ignore it, when I'm out in the corridors, or in the classrooms. However, I won't tolerate that disrespect in my own office."
"I apologize, Mr. Avery."
She seated herself beside Dave. A copy of that morning's Student's Newsletter, lay on the desk beside the rope, with a front-page photo of Karen, taken while she died gagging at the end of the rope. The photo showed the noose crushing her neck, to the width of her wrist, her breasts thrust forward inside her tight tee shirt, with her arms behind her back.
Karen smiled. "What do you know! I was a good hang and a sexy hang too; but not one guy at the Homecoming Dance was enough of a gentleman to dance with me; let alone fu...I mean...Well, it was very humiliating."
"Miss Bennet." The Principal said, "I want somebody to explain to me, why you are able to sit there today. You are the very first cheerleader, who I've ever had come to my office, on the first day back to class, after she'd been hanged.
Karen said, "I'm surprised to be here myself sir."
The Principal then asked, "Do you have an explanation Mr. Krendell?
"It's a mystery to me sir."
"You are the Warrior Team's equipment handler, aren't you?"
"One of them sir."
"But you are the one who brought out this rope, aren't you?"
The man picked up the rope's noose end.
"There's a kink in this rope."
Mr. Avery grabbed the rope above the noose knot, and tried to pull the loop through. The loop jammed.
He said, "As you can see, there is more than enough space, for Miss Bennet's neck, to move freely within this loop."
"Dave?" Karen asked, "What'd you do?"
"I didn't tie the noose. That's how they're manufactured. I just grabbed the rope out of the equipment locker and brought it out to the Gym. Then I put it down in its usual place. Then I sat in the stands. I didn't tamper with it."
The Principal said, "I understand that you and Miss Bennet are going steady."
"We were, until she decided to become a slut."
Karen said, "Dave!"
"I won't tolerate that kind of language in my office. Apologize to Miss Bennet immediately."
"Okay Karen. I apologize."
"I can see that you still have strong feelings toward her. What were your feelings, when you saw that she was the one who was going to be hanged?"
The boy hesitated. Then he said, "Mixed."
"This isn't funny Miss Bennet. We may be dealing with sabotage."
Dave snapped, "I didn't sabotage it! It's a very old rope. They've been hanging cheerleaders with it for years. Look at it. It's fraying. It's probably been jammed like that before."
"Oh has it?"
"Probably. Have you noticed that the last few girls we've hanged have taken longer to die than usual?"
"Not until now. You're in very serious trouble Mr. Krendell."
"But I didn't sabotage anything!"
Now Karen spoke. "He's right. He didn't. The noose worked properly. I was dead in less than two minutes. I just don't know why I'm alive now."
"Miss Bennet. Please!"
"I saw you standing there Mr. Avery. You were standing close enough for me to try to kick you in the head, while I was thrashing around in my final agony. And look at this photo Mr. Avery. Do you see how tight my neck was squished? There is no way that anybody could survive that."
"Apparently not." said the Principal. "The question is, how do I explain to the school board, why you not only survived, but why your neck is back to its proper shape?"
"Yes sir. You see. Right after I died..."
"Miss Bennet. Don't try my patience."
"You asked me a question sir, and I'm trying my best to answer it."
"Very well. Answer it as best you can."
"Right after I died, I came out of my body. Then I heard Dave's voice."
Dave said, "Whatever she says is all subjective sir."
"I'm trying to be as objective as possible, Mr. Krendell."
The girl told the Principal, "I heard him say, 'Lord Jesus. Please keep Karen alive. I love her.'
"Then I went back inside my body."
Dave said, "This is a clear demonstration of the validity of Ehrling's Universal Theory, Mr. Avery."
The Principal asked, "Do you know what Professor Allan Ehrling's Theory actually states, Mr. Krendell?"
"Yes sir. ‘God governs the motion of every subatomic particle, in every galaxy, throughout the entire universe.'
"I believe that God governed the motion of every single subatomic particle, in both the rope and Karen's neck, in response to my prayer sir."
Mr. Avery said, "Is that what you expect me to tell the School Board? That this was the result of someone violating the ban on prayer, at a School sponsored function?"
Karen said, "You asked me what happened sir, and I told you what happened, and Dave just explained how, whether the School Board likes it or not."
"Mr. Krendell." The man said, "Every reputable theologian recognizes that in this severely overpopulated world, where we have nothing to eat but each other, the Commandment; 'Thou shalt not kill' is a luxury we can no longer afford. Believing otherwise is utopian fanaticism, which always leads to despair.
"Now any decent person, who truly cared about Miss Bennet, would have prayed for her suffering to end quickly. Tell me. Did you pray for her to survive?"
"Yes sir I did. Those were my exact words."
"Oh Dave." She said, "You really do love me."
"Yes I do; and if you ever want to stop being...what I'm not supposed to say in this office, I'll be here for you."
"Don't count on it." said Mr. Avery. "I don't think you realize what a serious thing this is."
Karen asked, "Is love against School Board regulations?"
"Only if it's irresponsible."
"According to School Board regulations," Karen said, "every girl on the cheerleading squad, and on the combat team, gets a mandatory implant. How then is it possible for any of us to be irresponsible about love? Unless she’s Catholic like Francine; and she was exercising her Constitutional right."
"That isn't the responsibility I'm talking about. Anyone who interferes with filling the kill quota is being irresponsible and antisocial."
Dave said, "All I did was pray that one single cheerleader, out of who knows how many would live. What danger is there in that?"
"Supposing," the Principal said, "that one person prayed for every cheerleader who was hanged on Saturday, and they all lived? Wouldn't that be a disaster? There'd be widespread panic throughout the City. That can't be permitted to happen. An example must be made of you Mr. Krendell."
"But sir, I thought you understood. The kink in the noose was caused by the rope's fraying."
"I understand that this is the story that you're telling. I never said that I believe you. You should also not have been praying at a school sponsored activity."
"But it was a silent prayer, and I'm more surprised than anybody, that the prayer was answered."
"There is an ancient saying Mr. Krendell. 'Be careful what you pray for'. I'm dropping you from your position as equipment handler."
"You are to be excluded from all extra curricular activities for the remainder of the year."
"Beginning immediately, you are being suspended for a week, and you are not to return to your classes, until I've had a conference with your parents."
"You will also be forbidden to attend your graduation. You will receive your diploma in the mail, but you will be banned from the ceremony. Now go to your locker, take your edu-computer and all your personal belongings with you, and go home."
Karen said, "This is ridiculous, Mr. Avery. You're exaggerating beyond all good sense and reason, Mr. Avery."
"That will be all Miss Bennet. Now you may return to class."
"But I really was dead."
"Miss Bennet, if you really had been dead, you would still be in that condition. You might have been a co-conspirator in this antisocial activity. I intend to look into that."
She asked, "Look into what?"
"As you said Miss Bennet, I was standing right there. I heard you tell James Haskins, 'Hang me quick. I don't want to be late for the Homecoming Dance.'"
"That was a joke. I was trying to act brave."
"I'm going to see what Mr. Haskins has to say about that. I intend to see just how much of an act it really was."
Dave and Karen left the Principal's office. They moved along the empty corridor, passing rows of gray lockers.
"Co-conspirators'?" she said. "Neither of us did anything wrong. Jimmy didn't either. I was dead in less than two minutes. Everybody saw it."
Dave said, "What does it matter? Nobody listens to kids. They think we're all a bunch of juvenile delinquents."
"Why don't you talk to Pastor McDougal? If he speaks up for you, Mr. Avery will listen to him."
"Avery and the entire School Board are all a bunch of atheists."
"But Pastor McDougal is the Chief Presbyter of all the Presbyterian Churches on Level 1378. That makes him a highly respected member of the community. The Principal will be obligated to listen to him."
"But he's not obligated to change his mind."
"At least give it a chance Dave."
"What's the point? This suspension will be on my permanent record. After I graduate, wherever I go to find a job, they'll call the School to find out about my records. They'll tell them that I was suspended for saving your life, and I'll never be hired."
She said, “Then I don’t know what to tell you Dave, except that Avery may have been right. From now on, be careful what you pray for.”
Second period had ended. Karen was on time for her third period girl's physical education class.
When she entered the girls' locker room, Alyce Vanderland and Louise Torelli were changing into their gym uniforms. Karen's locker was beside theirs.
As Karen began changing into her uniform of shorts, socks and sneakers, Alyce asked, "So what's the twitter from the Birdhouse?"
"Mr. Charles Avery is a God damn mthrfkr!"
Alyce asked, "He's a what?"
"I can't believe what that man just did. He said that the noose had a kink in it, and that somebody deliberately saved my life."
Louise said, "A kink?"
"Yeah." said Alyce. "Her."
Karen said, "This is serious. He said that the rope had been tampered with, and he blamed Dave Krendell for it."
Louise said, "But Dave would never do anything like that."
"I know; but that mrfkr Avery doesn't care. He just suspended Dave for a week."
Alyce said, "I don't believe it."
Louise shouted. "Suspended for a week?"
"That's not all. He's being banned from all extra curricular activities for the remainder of the year."
"Yes Louise; and he won't be permitted to attend his graduation."
"But I was beside him when he took the rope out of the equipment locker. The noose was already tied. I was with him when he brought it out, and he didn't touch the rope after that. He was sitting right next to me in the stands, while you were being hanged."
"It wasn't just that. Dave admitted that he prayed for me, during the hanging. That might have been what saved my life."
Louise said, "He's not gonna graduate for that?"
"Oh he'll graduate. He'll receive his diploma in the mail. He just won't be permitted to attend the Ceremony."
Louise said, "You know you're right. Mr. Avery is a God damn mthrfkr!"
Alyce laughed, "He prayed?"
"Yeah. He said, 'Lord Jesus. Please keep Karen alive. I love her.'"
Louise shouted. "He said that?"
Karen said, "Face it girl. If Dave Krendell’s not getting any from you, he knows where I am."
Louise said, "He told me that he likes girls who are intelligent, dignified and have some class."
"Then what's he doing with you? Forget it Louise. Last year, Dave was doing it with Homecoming Queen Alyce here, even before he started dating me."
Alyce said, "That only happened once Louise. We were celebrating after we won a game. Dave's the equipment handler, and as part of the celebration, I let him handle my equipment while I handled his; but only that once."
Louise said, "He told me that he likes knowing that I'll still be around, after all you warrior team sluts are dead."
Karen said, "Well being a shirking wussy, who never thinks of anybody but herself, is nothing to brag about."
Alyce said, "You got no business calling her that."
"No? Remember last year, when she joined the girls' warrior squad? During her first game, she got one little wound. Then she fell down and played dead for the rest of the fighting; but as soon as the clock ran out, she jumped up and ran to the infirmary."
Alyce said, "That's not true. I fought right next to her in the phalanx. Her shield and mine overlapped. When the opposing team broke through, I saw her get stabbed really good, with a spear deep through her side. I was sure they'd scored a kill off her."
Louise said, "So was I."
Karen told her, "So was the score keeper."
"If he’d stuck it in me just half an inch higher, we would have all been right about that. Now I don’t know who got up and ran, but it wasn’t me. I didn’t know that I wasn’t dead until after the game was over and everyone had gone home.
“I woke up stretched out on a pile of dead warriors, who’d been piled up on a skid by the guys from the meat company. Then I got up off of the pile, and limped groaning, into the infirmary."
Alyce said, "What more do you expect?"
Karen said, "She didn't fight in one single game after that and she forfeited her family's extra rations. That's what I call shirking."
Louise shouted, "You've got no business talking about my family!"
Karen said, "The only reason you joined, was so it'd look good on your college resumes. You only had to show up for one game to do that, and that's all you did. You didn't care about the game, or the team, or the school, or reducing the population, or your family, or anybody but yourself;
"So why would Dave Krendell think he could count on someone who's as selfish as you?"
Mrs. Ramierez, the Phys. Ed. instructor, stood at the end of the locker row.
"Karen." She said, "Could I talk to you for a minute."
"I apologize for using an obscenity, Mrs. Ramierez."
"Apology accepted, but this is something else."
Karen walked up to the woman.
She said, "As your faculty advisor, it is my unfortunate task, to advise you, that as of last
Saturday, you are no longer a member of the cheerleading squad."
"You're kicking me off the squad?"
"It's not my decision. It's the School Board. You see; you are now listed as an officially hanged cheerleader. I don't know what happened, but you no longer officially exist, and the School Board doesn't want to provide any extra rations, for someone who no longer exists, or your family.
"I also have to ask you to hand in your cheerleader uniform and your pompoms."
"They're taking away our extra rations?"
"Sorry, but that's what I was told."
"But after a cheerleader's hanged, her family's still supposed to receive the extra rations, for the remainder of the season."
"Yours would, if you were really dead."
Then Mrs. Ramierez blew her whistle. The girls went out into the Gym. Louise ran past Karen shouting.
"I wasn't playing dead! Were you?"
During this grading quarter, the class was graded on punch fighting. The girls wore no gloves, but thick leather pads were tied across their fingers and the backs of their hands.
Mrs. Ramierez paired them off, generally by size.
Karen was paired with Alyce Vanderland. She pounded her anger into the Homecoming Queen. Alyce hammered back, making Karen cry out in pain.
Nearby, Louise punched out her opponent Sarah Denski with all the anger she felt. She slammed her fist hard into the girl's jaw, knocking Sarah out cold.
"Nice going Torelli!" Mrs. Ramierez shouted. "That's what I like to see! That's an automatic A plus!"
After hearing that, Karen called out, "Teacher's pet!"
Karen had won her fight with Alyce. Alyce was seated on the floor moaning, with two black eyes and a broken nose. That always happened to the Homecoming Queen, during her first gym class after the Dance.
Karen had one black eye, a bloody nose, a split lip, and she was groaning in pain. That always happened whenever she was paired with Alyce. She was however still on her feet, but numb, groggy, and had trouble standing.
Mrs. Ramierez called out, "That's a 'B' for you Bennet! A ladylike 'C' for you Vanderland!"
The pain in Karen's neck had returned. She felt a severe burning where the noose had choked her. Her throat felt tight, and she had trouble breathing.
Now Louise stood facing Karen, with her fists ready and a lusty grin on her face.
She shouted, "You keep away from Dave, you slut!"
Karen was too groggy to move. The nerdy girl's fist banged into the wobbly cheerleader's jaw, making a very loud crack.
Karen was flat on the floor, aware of nothing.
Then through the nothingness, a Voice spoke:
"Karen arise," the Voice said, "and choose life, so that you and your children will live, and possess the land, that the Lord your God has given you."
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