Hunger gnawed at him again, giving him no respite even in this cold night. He
pulled his rags around him tightly, but they still failed to keep out the biting
wind. He vaguely remembered warm beds and hot food in days long past and cursed
his mind for not being able to remember. If he could think about it, maybe his
body would be fooled into thinking that it really was warm and well fed. But it
was not going to work. Ben got up and decided to walk off the hunger pangs.
Maybe he would find some food along the way.
The night was still young for
those who had the means to enjoy themselves. The streets were lit in strange
iridescence from the night spots. Ben
trudged wearily down the streets, despairing of ever finding food. Suddenly, he
found himself caught in a car's headlights and saw a well-dressed figure coming
out of it and walking towards him. He blinked to see the person clearly. But the
notes clipped between the man's fingers arrested his attention.
The man's voice was low and even, asking a question that Ben could hardly
make out. When he showed that he could not hear, the man spoke louder. 'Are you
interested in earning some money? We have a game that's still lacking some
participants." Ben was intrigued. They were going to pay him RM1,000 just to
play a game. He wondered what the game was, his skin prickling at the
premonition of danger. Yet, the attraction
of the money was too great for him to resist. He nodded quickly and was told to
meet them down at the highway in thirty minutes.
Ben walked his way to the appointed rendezvous. All the way, he racked his
brains for some answers to the questions that were whirling in his mind. But he
could find none. At the highway, he saw three more cars beside the one he had
encountered earlier. There was a group of men standing around, their lighted
cigarettes looked like tiny lights in the dark. When he got closer, Ben saw that
they were armed. He began to panic. But the man who had spoken to him came
forward and explained the game to him. If Ben could escape
unscathed to the riverside with the men hunting him down, he would
be allowed to keep the RM1,000 that they were giving him now Ben felt a strange
fear in his bones, but could not help thinking how the money would change his
life. He had been dirty hungry and without hope. Now, there was a chance for a
new life. Yet, he doubted if he could make it to the riverside in his weak
condition. In the end, he decided to take on the challenge.
Ben was given a ten-minute headstart, and he made the most of it. He ran like
his life depended on it, as it literally did. Falling over stones and stumbling
as his joints gave way, Ben came close to the riverside. In fact, he could hear
the gurgling of the river on its way downstream. A smile broke his face as he
realised that he was going to make it. Suddenly, a sharp pain exploded in his
chest and he fell. Touching his chest, he saw an arrow protruding from it. Blood
was flowing rapidly and he could hear the footsteps of the hunters behind him.
He tried to pull himself to the riverside but he could not. As the lifeblood
slowly poured out from him, Ben realised that he was going to die a rich man.
Smiling, he patted the money in his pocket and then closed his eyes. Forever.