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Force of Circumstance

by Arthur Mackeown

“We need to talk.”

“So talk.”

“Not here. Down by the coal face. Away from the others.”

“No way. If there’s another cave-in, we’re done for.”

“Stop complaining and come on.”

“What’s the big secret?”

“Just hang on a minute.”

“This is as far as I go. My torch batteries are running out.”

“Then this’ll do.”

“So what’s up?”

“It’s my turn.”


“You know. To choose the next...”

“You chose me?”

“I had to choose someone.”

“But I’ve got a wife and kids.”

“You signed the pact like everyone else.”

“But I thought we’d be rescued before we... you know.”

“Well, you were wrong. And you made your own choice when it was your turn.”

“Poor old Fred. I hated to do it. He had a wife and kids too.”

“Didn’t stop you accepting your share of him, did it?”

“I was starving. We all were.”

“Then you know how it is.”

“But they could get through to us any day now.”

“And if another drill breaks? How long will we hold out if we don’t...”

“They’ll come. I know they will.”

“But you don’t know when, do you?”

“I thought we were friends. I’d never have chosen you.”

“I could let you off the hook, I suppose. Especially as I haven’t told anyone yet.”

“In exchange for what?”

“A favour.”

“Here we go...”

“Because I’ll have to pick someone to take your place, won’t I? And I’ve got just the man...”

“Oh, I get it. You want me to kill him?”

“I want us to kill him.”

“But who?”

“Sam Wilcox.”

“What! I’m not taking on that gorilla. It’s suicide.”

“Not if there’s two of us.”

“But why him?”

“I’ve been having a little fun with his wife.”

“That’s great. Does he know...?”

“She says she’ll tell him if I don’t run off with her. As if I’d leave my Sue for a woman like that.”

“If the police find out...”

“But they won’t, will they? Not if we stick to the pact. We just tell them Sam died in the cave-in along with the rest. Like we all agreed in the beginning.”

“You’re a moron, do you know that? Do you seriously think the cops’ll believe they all died in the cave-in? I mean, if they died in the cave-in they’d still be buried, wouldn’t they? Who got them out? And how do we explain them ending up as skeletons? Mice?”

“They’ll believe what we tell them. Even if they don’t, the press will never hear about it. We’re the nation’s darlings. An entire month underground and still holding out manfully. Fellows like us don’t eat their own mates. And if they do, who’s going to want to know?”

“But Sam? That’s not survival. That’s cold-blooded murder.”

“It’s my survival. And yours, too. Don’t forget that.”

“You’ve got a point there.”

“And it’s not like we’ll be leaving much evidence behind, is it? Not with this lot’s appetite...”

Copyright © 2013 by Arthur Mackeown

Proceed to Challenge 515...

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