Blades of light crept slowly across the cluttered bedroom floor. They passed slowly over torn skin-mags, ricoched off of spend Wish shooters, and climbed unhindere to the top of a very ragged and unkept bed upon which slept an even more ragged and unkept bed. When the rays of light pierced the thin veil of his eyelids, John roled. For a split second he realized his mistake, but John’s wiry frame connected solidly with the floor.

Without any false pretense of pride, John peeled himself from the ground. He approached his dresser, sweeping a pile of junk from the top of it, John reached inside a drawer and pulled out a small cylindrical cartridge. The Wish is a pyschotropic chemical and bacterial cocktail twisted in such an elgantly deady manner that during intoxication the user’s every desire seems to come true, but afterwards leaves the user so drained they wished they hadn’t taken the drug. With a few practiced motions John pressed the Wish into his medical-grade hypodermic injector and pressed it into his elbow. Euphoria gushed from his every pore. John was swept away in a glorious tide of pleasure.

Through the wild years of his youth, and subsequently drug-soaked years of his manhood John had grown acustumed to waking up in places he didn’t remember actually going to. But where he was now was so profoundly different from any other place that he had been before that it shocked him into consciousness. The rough wood against his face did not surprise him, neither did the putrescent smell of feces mixed with vomit and a dash of urine, and even the darkness was somewhat familiar. The sound of metal sliding smoothly against metal and a low ocillating rumble. A train? He’d seen them in some of the older Holo’s, but the last one was scrapped at least 150 years ago! Thoroughly confused, John pushed himself up and as he shoved and pushed his was upright he instantly regretted standing. The blood rushing to his skull carried with it the painful reminder of the price a cheap Wish extolled from the user. He staggered in pain, steading himself on a nearby object. John silently cursed his Genie for selling him Russian Wishes. Another wave of agony swept over him and he clung tightly to the object he’d grabbed earlier, it was cotten and mildly forgiving…

“Hey watch yourself you dirty farker!” roared his arm rest.

For a moment, John was overwhelmed with a desire to strike this man, hard, someplace vital, but it passed as quickly as it came. The flare of rage was replaced with a seathing ember of loathing. The ember was then quickly doused by another wave of throbbing agony. John backed against the wall of the railroad cart, and leaned carefully. What was he doing in a railroad car? Why was he packed like so much cattle in the car? And why in Gord’s name was there a train in the first place?

A voices crackled over an ancient loudspeaker from a high corner of the car. “Attention riders. Before I begin, you must know that this will be the last friendly communication you receive. In order to maintain consistency it is vital that all non-appropriate communication be non-existant. If at any time you wish to leave, simply keep your right arm raised, and you will be removed by our personel. But keep in mind that you will not be able to return, and any winnings you may have earned will be forfeit. I would like to welcome you all. I am very pleased that there was such a great turnout, and I would like to thank you all for coming. These upcoming times will be tough and many of you will be tested up-to and beyond your limits. Good luck, and Godspeed”

The speaker crackled again as it was switched off. John slumped against the wall of the cart his head throbbing. John began to piece some of the fragments he’d understood. He was going somewhere, he was competing, and supposedly the competition was going to be very tough, but as John looked around in the dark car, he saw families, young men, old men, kids that couldn’t have even reached puberty. What was going on?
“Are you sure the family bonus is going worth it, Honey?” a tall father asked, while leaning over to help his wife secure a coat onto a shifting child.
“Daaady, it smells!” whined the puffy coat.
“Don’t worry darling, once we get done with this, we won’t ever have to worry about smells again.” said the mother.