The Game

The hydraulic container descends to the floor of the room, all lights centered on the silver doors that open dramatically, expelling the misty vapor escaping from the opening, from inside the container from which Axel, a tall, thin, shaven man with deep, shiny ebony skin, descends along with the announcer’s words.

“Thirty seconds mark in scarlet red the dark screen in front of the contender, thirty seconds preceding events that will determine a person’s life, thirty seconds in which Axel will expose his entire life, certain death will come from failing in the enterprise.”

Death, huh? No matter, it is not worth thinking about it now and Axel knows it. The mind resumes and turns on the shoulders to the muscles of his arms and he is happy. He feels the strength in his legs inviting him forward and he is happy. He leaves those memories behind and realizes that all the events of his life have led him to that room.

A woman in the stalls has had the same feeling at the same time, she grips the handrail tightly as she walks down the endless concrete stairs holding her breath after seeing Axel’s image on the giant screen of the central scoreboard. The screams of the fans bring her back into the stadium and she pushes the barrel of the shotgun back into her jacket without losing the momentum that carries her forward, towards the stage.

The announcer gives the signal, the scoreboard starts the countdown and the race begins. Multicolored confetti accompanies Axel’s leap inward, into the room where a key is missing.

– The desk?

Axel moves like lightning towards the desk, his eyes darting across the surface of the desk.

– The lamp!

A nimble movement of Axel’s right hand and index finger hits the switch on the lamp. The powerful beam of light reveals the dark spaces of the desk. Nothing, no sign of the keys. On the floor! Axel looks from under the bed, nothing. Maybe in the closet, every compartment savagely scrutinized and nothing, can’t find the keys.

– Wait! Don’t despair, what do we know about the keys, well, they are not in sight. Yes, but what else? They are in the room although I can’t see them, they are somewhere that contains them. Of the places that might contain the keys I have checked the desk, the closet, under the bed, the bed… the bed!

Axel throws an intense withering kick forward, manages to knock down the pillows and the bed cover, however his body continues to move forward and he stumbles over the supporting foot. An energetic jump brings him back to the race, there on the virgin mattress he finds the keys.

Yes!

Axel runs intrepidly to the door and uses the keys to open it, he throws himself into the long corridor where arms hidden in the walls get in the way, throw themselves against Axel and hold him tightly. But Axel keeps moving forward, pressing his feet hard on the floor and propelling himself to break free from the insistent grip of the long arms escaping from the holes in the walls of this almost endless hallway, in the agony of hopelessness, in the face of exhaustion, of resurrection in the breath that keep Axel in the race until he reaches the other side of the hallway, an empty waiting room and a closed door, the second door.

“All who pass forward, lose all hope.”

It reads on the inscription that Axel hits with his fist that fills with blood because of the pieces of glass in his knuckles. A strong pain immobilizes Axel’s right hand. No matter, there is no time to lose, the second door opens and Axel goes through it to find himself facing the galleries where the public is waiting.

“Five questions separate Axel from his once-in-a-lifetime chance to walk through the third gate and fulfill his life’s destiny. Or maybe this will be the last day of his life”

“First question!”

The first audience member approaches the microphone set up low and center in the stalls.

– Why have you come Axel, what motivates you?

– What motivates me you say… what motivates me is to always win, in all things. Why did I come? Simple… I came here to win!

A spark of fire is born in the depths of Axel’s eyes, eyes that ignite with the heat of the flames of hell, they are the DEMON EYES!!!!

– Look at my flaming eyes!

The crowd goes wild in applause and shouts of support that come down loudly on the stage, Axel raises his right arm skyward, offering his heart to the stars in exchange for victory. The second person leads up to the microphone, he is sweating and breathing heavily.

– I… I want to know… why you and not me!

– Why me… I know that. Why not you… (inflexible pause) Ask yourself that, asshole!

The sweat on the surface of Axel’s skin reaches boiling point as heat waves circulate through his body. The steam rises like the Tower of Babel that wants to conquer the stars.

The third person walks into the room and kicks another person, who was trying to enter with him,  before closing the door. This person is exhausted, his clothes have been damaged in the fight, a brown stain on the bottom of his shirt indicates a possible bleeding wound to the abdomen.

– What makes a person risk their life?

– You risked your life to ask me that, what you just did. You know why you did it. You did it to find yourself!

The person collapses onto the gallery floor, a smile creeps across his face just before the gleam in his eyes fades. The person’s soul escapes through the mouth and nose. The person’s soul traverses time and space describing an imaginary line between its initial position and its final position, thus creating the concept of change and its final image is forever etched in Axel’s memory, the fire is extinguished.

The last person opens the door and observes Axel on stage, the man who has lost the flame of his desire in the face of the death of the previous person.

– Why am I doing this?

Axel closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. Memories of his previous life pierce the rays of the sun under his eyes.

– Open your damn eyes!

It’s the woman and the shotgun, pointing it straight at Axel’s head from the stalls.

– Open your eyes I say and face your destiny!

– Hey wait, what are you doing?

– I come on behalf of a person very dear to me, a person who no longer exists.

– I know who you are… Hilda. You’ve come to introduce me to my destiny?

– Exactly.

Hilda points the shotgun directly into Axel’s eyes.

– You disappeared 10 years ago, but to find you like this… on TV, you weren’t really thinking of hiding, were you Axel?

– Not really, there’s no time left to play hide and seek.

– You… who do you think you are! Ah!

Hilda hits Axel’s face with the end of the barrel of the shotgun, the blow drives him backwards, to cover his face with his hands. The nose gets the worst of it, a cut on the left side spills blood on the skin and on Axel’s clothes, who keeps standing, keeps looking the woman in the eyes, like a feline absorbed by the ever-changing, ever-vibrating form of a prey that one wants to inflict fear in the heart of.

– Why are you looking at me like that? You… you are not sorry.

– Sorry? For what?

– Damn you wretch, she was always waiting for you by the window. She always said that you… that someday you would come and go with her, that together you would travel the world, never stopping, never taking a breath except on the last of the days, when together you would fly to the stars.

– I will see her someday, I swear. But not now, not in this life at least.

– She’s fucking dead.

– I know, that’s why I said…

– Silence, are you going to meet her? I don’t think so… because you’re going straight to hell!

Hilda pulls the trigger hard, the explosion inside the barrel creates a force energetic enough to push Hilda backwards. Axel’s head explodes into a thousand pieces in the collision of the high velocity shotgun shells on his naked face. The body falls lifeless, no longer exerting any inertia and sprawls on the floor now bloodied.

The people in the stalls look up at the main scoreboard screen, time is still running on the counter, 5 minutes to go. The screen shows Axel turned to white flames bathing the body of a child kneeling on the surface of deep, dark water. Axel wants to approach the child but fears to burn him with the flames, the desire transforms into a winged man, so strong that his back can withstand the sun’s rays and the shadow he casts erases the child from existence. No… it is not a child, it is Axel who goes deep into his conscience in search of the strength that allows him to throw himself over the waters, over the sky and the stars. Will he succeed in reaching the goal?

Epilogue.

The woman with the shotgun never crossed paths with a man again in her life. Her fear of taking control of her life led her to walk endlessly along the side of the road, until her body collapsed and her heart stopped beating.

The native people of the area say that some nights you can see the figure of Axel, still running through the stars in search of what he wants so much. People leave offerings in the small ceremonial tomb they built in his name.

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