Type of Short Story: Short Story
Summary: Hilariously funny dark humor and biting satire combine in this short story set on an American TV game-show of the near future.
Wheel of Justice
"Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to this week's show. Tonight our executionee is one Rainbow Smith, a twenty-three year old gang member from the Bronx. Rainbow has been tried and convicted of the homicide of a state law enforcement officer. Rainbow come on down, your time is now."
A thick set, muscular, black man with close cropped afro emerges from a doorway at the back of the studio. Handcuffed and flanked by two armed guards, he makes his way down the stairs through the jeering and cheering audience. Rainbow, passing a cameraman, flashes a feral smile. His white teeth glint in the lens and he winks into the camera as he approaches the stage.
The stage is decorated in a gaudy collision of all the colours of the spectrum, specially for its young victim. The power wheel, looming stage right, is separated from the chair, bedecked as a colourful and comfortable resting place for an unwitting Hansel, by the huge liquid crystal display of the scoreboard.
Rainbow climbs the steps onto the stage and is led to the chair by Luscious Linda, the assistant to the show's presenter Bob Vicarage. Dressed in a low cut, long split, black velvet dress, Linda straps Rainbow down. Down into his final resting place, amid roars of excitement from the testosterone fuelled males in the studio audience, Rainbow sinks.
Bob motions the crowd to silence and announces the contestants.
"This week's prospective prize winning executioners are Granny Emmott from Springfield, New Jersey . . ."
Cheers from her supporters and impartial members of the audience interrupt the suave host as banners reading "Go Granny Go!" and "Shock it to 'em Emmott" are waved.
" . . . and last week's champion, Davor Poborsky, a refugee from Sarajevo now living in Queens."
More howls of encouragement, and a lone female voice screams out "Fugees go home" before being hastily ejected by the studio security guards.
The contestants take their places on the podium in front of the scoreboard and a priest, dressed in the puritanical garb of the early European settlers, enters from the left for his evangelistic interlude.
"In God's country we are privileged with the technology and the divine moral right to bring sinners to their eternal judgement before the eyes of the Lord. Jesus loves America. Hallelujah."
Turning to Rainbow, the cathode Christian offers him the chance to confess and repent his crimes and thus be reconciled with his creator. Rainbow, by way of reply, spits on the floor at the old man's feet and angrily growls, "The dirty fascist pig-dog deserved it."
The priest's face contorts in distaste and he leaves the stage with a parting shot of "And now we have participatory justice for all. There is no escape from the ever watchful eye of our Lord. God bless America." The older viewers in the front rows of the congregation cheer and wave white wooden crosses above their heads while those further back in the audience chat amongst themselves and ignore this part of the proceedings.
As Rainbow contemplates the course his life has taken, leading him into the dire straits he is now ensnared by, the game ensues. Bob fires out trivia questions concerning the law, crime and punishment. The contestants are quick on their buzzers, sending electrical pulses from their fingertips and answering on command. At the end of the first round, the liquid crystals on the scoreboard indicate that Granny Emmott leads Davor by just two volts.
"Granny, am I right in saying that it has been your ambition to take part in the legal course of criminal extermination since you were widowed three years ago?"
"Yes Bob, my late husband was shot dead by one of these scum" she motions toward Rainbow, "during a botched bank robbery near our old home in Albany. He was going to withdraw our savings. My daughter had . . ."
"And your family is here with us tonight" Bob interrupts and the family members cheer from their complimentary seats in the middle of the theatre.
"We must pause now for a word from our sponsors," says Bob, "but don't go away, we will be back to see which of these contestants makes it through to run the power wheel after this break."