In matters of life and death, one could not forever rely on the judgment of his fellow man- or in my case, woman, which is why I never will again.
It all started when my co-worker talked me into putting in with her for a new reality TV series called Thirteen. It was being broadcast by the CW30. The producers were looking for individuals to participate in a “death match” type show. The final contestant / winner would get a $1Mil prize. The contestants would be put in situations of life or death type decisions and individuals would be killed off as each week passed, for a total of twelve weeks proving one person to the be the winner.
The two of us, Aries, naturally had to put in because we both felt we could be brutal enough and team up against anything the others could throw at us. There were more men than women, and we were out-numbered eight to five.
I watched my surroundings tentatively and was a little concerned when they loaded us into boats and we were taken upstream quite a ways. It was dark and occasionally in the flash of the light we could see heads bobbing up and down on the surface of the water, making it known that we were in an alligator infested area. I’m not a big fan of water, so the thoughts running through my mind were: I really hope I don’t have to take a swim with the crocs.
The driver of the boat cut the engine and we drifted into a much wider murky swamp. The heads and eyes were more prevalent here than they had been in the river. I strained to see anything in the dark night besides where the light was flashing. I felt our boat hit something and the driver pointed the spotlight to our right showing a dock. He quickly tied the boat and helped each of us up and out.
“Welcome to your home for the next twelve weeks.” Rynay and I looked at each other and smiled. Ahead of us was a small cabin covered in mosquito netting. We stood back and allowed the others to pick their bunks. I knew Rynay would prefer to sleep on the floor as she always did when we attended out-of-town trainings for work, and I could sleep just about anywhere as long as I had a pillow and a blanket.
“You’ll find everything you need, and all you need to do is listen for the voice to instruct you further. Each week food will be brought in, otherwise, good luck and stay alive.” We all watched as the driver of the boat untied the rope from the dock and left us staring after him in the dark.
Everyone chatted about what our challenges would be, and what would constitute our dying day. Each day we would hear the voice telling us different things to look for or to do, and when our first challenge day, well night actually, came, we were all a little antsy.
"One person will be sitting out this challenge while the rest of you will be pairing up.” Straws were drawn and a man whose name I didn’t know was chosen to sit out. Instantly Rynay and I were partnered and ready for anything.
“This challenge will put two of you and the person who is sitting out in danger of dying tonight.” We all looked back and forth at each other, and at the guy who had to sit out. “Your challenge tonight is for you to climb into these boats, each boat has a box that is full of snakes. Amongst the snakes is a key. One of you will be handcuffed to your boat. The person not handcuffed will have to reach into the box pulling the snakes out one by one and handing it to the partner handcuffed where they will then put it into another box. Once the first box is empty, then the key can be taken out and used to free your partner. The last couple finished or who opts out will be the two who will be joining the third in the death match.”
Snakes – this is going to be excellent, I thought. Rynay liked snakes and I didn’t have a problem with them either. Handcuffing me to the boat, we then paddled out to the middle of the marsh.
“Okay, open your boxes and begin.” Instantly Rynay and I were moving snakes like they were the rubber ones you get from the store as kids. Our box was almost half empty when the guy announced that we now had to pull the plug out of the bottom of our boat and use the cups provided to scoop out water in order to stay afloat as well as keep fishing out the snakes. I looked at Rynay in panic and she returned the look. Neither of us were fans of water and as she took snake by snake out of the box, I scooped and scooped, only trading off when we had to exchange the snakes. Our boat was almost half full when Rynay exclaimed she had finally reached the key and began unlocking my handcuffs. With one hand I kept scooping water while she worked at the lock. In a matter of seconds we were rowing back to shore and away from the crocs that had their eye on us. Climbing out of the boat we gave each other a high five and smiled. It was a few minutes later when we heard a couple yelling that they wanted to opt out. Their boat was almost completely under water and the crocs were moving in on them.
As the only two to actually finish the challenge we were quite ready to sleep peacefully that night. The three were taken and only later on when two came back, we were told that their challenge included rats and that one person didn’t make it.
Each week our challenges got a little harder and finally it came down to the last week with only Rynay and I as contestants. We had managed to screw every one of the contestants out of the game and not once had either of us had to face the death match. This was the final night.
“I’ll let you win.” Rynay whispered as we traveled to the area of the final stage.
“There’s no way in hell you will, and you know it.” I whispered back. “I know you are just as much if not more of an Aries as I am and we don’t take to losing.” We both grinned at the other.
“I promise, no matter what, I’ll let you win.” She whispered a little more urgently.
We arrived at another dock where we were told that as our final challenge, we would be tied to trees. We would have to untie ourselves then find the chainsaw that was hidden behind one of the trees nearby and cut down our tree, then it was up to us to find anyway to take care of the other in order to secure our place as winner of the million bucks headed our way.
Having spent a lot of time hunting and fishing, as well as teaching girls at girls camp how to tie knots, it was second nature to me to be able to untie them. Almost finished, I jumped when I heard the first howl of a dog in the bushes. Soon both of us were surrounded by slobbering and growling dogs that were snapping at our legs while we continued to furiously untie our knots.
I was the first one finished and having to work with animals, I knew that the dogs were really nothing. I found the chainsaw and cut down my tree. I turned around to find where Rynay was and if she had finally made her way out of her knots. She was gone. Not anywhere near her tree nor anywhere near where the other chainsaw was located. I knew she had lied when she told me she would let me win; now I just had to lie in wait until she made her move. The dogs knowing that neither of us cared about them had left and returned to their handlers.
The night started to grow light with the coming of dawn and still I had not seen any sign of her. I climbed one of the trees and looked around for anything that might tell me where she was. I still found nothing of value. The light began to fade again as the day had passed. I had dozed off and on in the tree and was startled when I woke to the oncoming of night. I climbed out of my tree and started toward the water. I knew if anything we both needed water and I might find her there.
When I got to the shore, I could see the eyes of many crocs floating just above the water. I cleared the top of the water enough to get a handful of water to drink. I hope I don’t get some nasty bug from drinking this crap. I thought, knowing full well that I was more than likely to get the runs from drinking bad water. I waited out the night again and when the sun rose I was surprised to find a welcome sight of the announcer coming up the river in a boat. He tied off the boat and climbed out to greet me.
“Glad to see you’re okay.”
“Glad to finally see someone.” I replied with a smile.
“I’m here to tell you that you’re the winner and to take you back to a warm meal and a shower.”
“How can that be? I never found Rynay to finish her off.”
“She finished herself off.”
“What?!” I exclaimed, there was no way she could have.
“She made her way back to the bog after getting her knots untied and took a poor step, she slipped off the dock. The crocs got her before any of us could get to her to get her out.”
“Well, at least now I know that I don’t have a prison sentence waiting for me when I claim my million.”
A week later when I got to work, I realized how dumb I was for trusting Rynay’s judgment and deciding to do the reality show. I now was left with a co-worker that I hated as well as left to manage an animal shelter alone. Damn that was stupid.