I wrote this based on a prompt (The first two sentences) in class a while back. Please give it a read if you have the time - I'd love some opinions or criticisms on it!
Sundown, Lights Out
I was running out of time. They’d said they’d give me until sundown, and that was only a few hours away. I had to find it, before tonight. Or I'd lose everything. Walking down the sidewalk, the tall buildings seemed to lean over me, ghostly faces peering out the windows. There were always those who hid away at this point. A tall man passed by me, eyes narrowed. I smiled at him. Let him think it was me. Just one less person I had to worry about. I ducked into the coffee shop, giving the room a quick scan. A couple tables of people nursed hot drinks, chatting. Tension hung stagnant in the air- I hardly noticed at this point. Catching someone looking at me, I smiled, sitting next to her.
"I don't believe we've met. I'm Alice," I introduced myself.
"Tara. And no, I can't say we have," she smiled, eyes never breaking contact. This would be tough.
"What brings you here?" I ran through possible questions in my head, the usual ones wouldn't break her. She took a sip of tea before replying.
"Besides the food? Conversation. And you?"
"Just looking to meet people," I turned my lips up in a practiced, mechanical way, timing my blinks at conscious intervals. Now for the final blow. "Would you want to come walking with me? I know the perfect place down at the park. Just a gorgeous spot, plenty of people," Tara sputtered into her tea, recognition dawning in her eyes. Bringing up the location of the last incident had been a good idea. Not everyone had heard about it yet, but thankfully it seemed she had. I smiled, moving my gaze to the rest of the shop.
"I'm sorry," Tara had regained her composure. "I seem to have forgotten... I was going to meet a friend. I'll have to decline your offer," she didn't wait for a reply before picking up her coat and hurrying out the door. It was obvious where she was headed. One more person to cross off the list. But my time was running out. The shop had gone silent- everyone had been listening to our conversation, as I'd known they would. I looked up from the table to meet the piercing eyes of them all. I'd already talked to the rest of the people here. There was no time for more games. Standing, I left the shop, already wondering who would be my next target. There weren't many options left.
Small clumps of people roamed the streets, sticking together in the way that all prey animals like to. I'd realized early on this week that surrounding yourself with others would only lead to your downfall. No one was loyal to anyone here. A mechanical whirring came from above my shoulder, and I glanced up to see a camera rotating to follow me. Someone had taken an interest. Glee briefly filled me, putting a jump in my step. I pushed it back down. The day wasn't over yet. My path brought me to the park, the very place I'd spoken of earlier. Not many people came out here, which made it the most dangerous place in the town. Two nervous voices carried to me, and I ducked behind a tree, listening.
"Tell me Ava! I need to know it's not you!"
"And how do you expect me to know it's not you?! Taking me out here so late," the voices lowered, and I strained to hear. "Elijah. I've been with you since day one. You can trust me."
"And where were you yesterday? Ava, I thought we had something, I thought we were going to do this together," the one named Elijah sounded panicked now, words coming out too fast.
"Hush. Did you hear that?" I strained my ears, covering my mouth with my hand to hide my breath. There's no way they could have heard me. It was impossible. A rustle came from the bushes somewhere ahead, and I heard a bird's wings beating in the air.
"A bird," Elijah's voice again.
"A bird," Ava repeated him. There was a muffled gasp, and then a thump. My eyes widened. Who'd done it? Which one? If they caught me now, I'd be killed too. Inching forward, I peered around the tree. The sun was painfully low in the sky now, rays beginning to dye the forest red. A single figure stood in a clearing several feet ahead of me, looking down at a dark mound. They stood in shadow, rolling their shoulders back. I strained my eyes, trying to make out any defining feature. Time was almost up.
The clearing flooded with light, the sun lowering even further so it streamed in rays around the columns of trees. I furiously blinked, heartbeat rising. It was a woman. Ava. I recognized her as someone I'd crossed off my list early on- she'd seemed so human. Her eyes were large and innocent, hair golden in the light. But, now that I knew it was her, the signs seemed undeniable. Her every movement rehearsed and calculated to appear realistic. It took me too long to realize she was looking at me.
"I can hear your heartbeat, Alice," she curled her lips upwards, revealing too-white teeth. Then she was running, so, so fast, and I was too, feet carrying me back to the street. If I could only make it to the square, I could win. I could win! I ran as if she were pushing me, feet struggling to keep up with my racing mind. My footsteps rang out as they hit cement. I was on the sidewalk, so close now. Explosive pain ruptured in my back, and I felt five sharp blades cutting down it, raking my bones. I screamed in pain, the horrible sound forcing itself out of me. The square was ahead of me now, sun nearly fully set beyond it. Large numbers had appeared across it, like a massive glowing alarm clock. A countdown. Six seconds.
Five. Only a couple steps now. My ragged breaths came in ice-cold gasps.
Four. The fountain in the center of the square.
Three. The large red button on the pedestal in front of it.
Two. I reached my hand out, muscles straining...
One. And pressed it, shouting out my answer with the last of my strength.
"We have a winner!" Spotlights blinded me, cheers erupting from all around as the walls of the town were pulled away. I collapsed, adrenaline shaking my limbs. "Congratulations to Alice Volkov! You've just won twenty million dollars, sweetie, how do you feel?" I smiled up at the immaculately dressed man, accepted his proffered hand as it pulled me up.
"Just great," My giddy voice resonated as I leaned in to speak to the microphone.
"And what did you think of Ava?" he pulled her over. She smiled, waving to the crowd.
"Very convincing! I wouldn't have guessed if I hadn't seen it happen!" I said.
"There you have it! Now let's check the audience polls," A large screen displayed all the contestants names. Nearly a third were blacked out. The unlucky ones. "It looks like you were pretty high up there, Alice. Good job on those acting skills!"
"Thank you," I bowed in a exaggeratedly robotic way, earning a laugh from the audience.
"That's all the time we have for now folks, be sure to tune in next week!" the lights dimmed, exit music playing as the studio audience left their seats. I was ushered to a back room and handed my belongings. Turning on my phone, I smiled. It was buzzing so fast I could hardly keep hold of it, new followers filling the notifications faster than my animated eyes could keep up.