1. "More Meat to Eat"
The Island City of Manhattan was a single building, 12 miles long, 3 miles wide, and 2,000 Levels high. At 7:37 AM, on Level 1378, thousands of people moved along the West 55th Street Corridor, going east from the 9th Avenue to the 8th Avenue corridor. Many teenage students walked among them, heading toward their local Public High School; HS L-1378-55, which stood between 8th and 7th.
As the crowd moved along, they went past an enormous advertising billboard, displaying a photographed line of full figured Warrior Women dressed in bikinis, while armed with swords and spears. Shrunken human heads were tied on their belts. Superimposed above them, across the top of the photo, was the slogan, “Paradise Meats. Healthy Tasty Treats”
17 year old Karen Bennet moved with the crowd. She was dressed in a lightweight, dark green jacket, with the words "HS L-1378-55", printed in yellow on the back. She wore a light blue skirt hanging to her knees. Like all the other students in the crowd, the hungry, blonde Karen carried her edu-computer, and like many of them, she also had a pair of shrunken human heads tied on her belt.
She was about halfway down the block, when her steady boyfriend David Krendell came up beside her.
"Hey Karen!" He was irritated.
Like most of the people in the City of Manhattan Building, he was a little thin and his energy level was low. She was also thin and not very energetic. A daily ration of sausages and meat patties was allocated for each citizen, but the portions were small.
Karen was annoyed. "Hi Dave."
"I hear” he accused “you're planning to try out for cheerleader?"
She snapped at him. "Since I already fought on the Warrior Girls Squad last year, I’m now qualified to join the cheerleaders. All cheerleaders and their families receive triple rations for the entire season, just like the warrior girls. Why not?"
"You might be the cheerleader who gets hanged, after we lose a game."
"The extra rations, will improve the health of me and my whole family, for the entire season. Isn't that worth the risk?"
“I wish you didn’t have to take that risk at all.”
She sighed, “And I wish you weren’t such a wimp, Dave.”
"I’m not being a wimp.” He told her, “The extra rations are intended to make the cheerleaders fill out, so they'll look sexy, instead of unhealthy."
She laughed, "You've got a complaint about that?"
"The girls on the cheerleading squad are expected to do it with every guy on the Warrior Team. I'm the Team's equipment handler, so I know everything that goes on. I want you to be my girlfriend alone. Not the entire Team's."
"I know what'll be expected of me, and I don't see the point of me being a well fed, sexy cheerleader, if I'm not a team girlfriend. They're the girls who have all the fun."
"What about me?"
She groaned. "You're too much of a wimp, and not all that much fun."
Karen stepped away from Dave.
Half a block behind them, Louise Torelli, a dark haired senior who wore glasses, walked beside tall, blonde, Alyce Vanderland. Like all their classmates, both girls carried their personal edu-computers. They also wore the lightweight school jackets, and knee length skirts, along with a pair of shrunken heads on each of their belts.
As they walked along beside the poster of the women warriors, Alyce began to sing.
“We are the Warrior Girls!
We‘re brave and deadly pearls!”
Louise joined in the song.
“Angels of Death at play,
When in Combat Games we slay!
We kill with sword and spear!
When we’re killed we show no fear,
While we help supply the meat,
For everyone to cook and eat!”
Louise told Alyce, "I'm not sure if I want to join the Warrior Girls Squad this year. Now that I've got that college scholarship, I've got something more to look forward to than being packaged meat."
Alyce asked, "Then why don't you try out for cheerleader with me?"
"Me?" Louise laughed. "A cheerleader?"
"Much less risk of getting killed. They only hang one cheerleader a game, and that's only from the losing team. Besides, it's a great way to meet guys."
"Forget it Alyce. I had enough of being a team's girlfriend, when I was a warrior girl. The next time for me'll be with a guy who thinks I'm special."
"But if you're not on either the warrior squad, or the cheerleaders, you and your family won't get those extra rations."
"Me and my family have decided that my getting into college is worth the sacrifice. I won't look as sexy, or get as many dates, but no one in my family will starve."
Two months later, a population trimming and meat harvest combat game was being held in the gymnasium of Public High School L-1378-55. The warrior guys and girls on the H.S. L-1378-55 team, fought to the death, against the guys and girls on the Warrior Team from the L-879-27 Parochial Academy. Both teams were armed with swords or spears, and circular shields. Blood dripped from their blades and from their shields.
On the sidelines, the H.S. L-1378-55 Band played the ancient melody of the Notre Dame fight song, while members of the alumni tried to remember the words to their Alma Mater's version.
"Fight! Fight-for Fifty-five
Karen Bennett was among the H. S. L-1378-55 cheerleaders, who wore tight, green and yellow tee shirts, and very short skirts. They leapt high while whirling about, waving their green and yellow pompoms, and chanting.
"Jimmy Haskins--He's our man!
If he can't do it--Landis can!
Larry Landis--He's our man!
If he can't do it--Patterson can!
Mike Patterson--He's our man!
If he can't do it--Denski can!
Sarah Denski--She's our gal!
If she can't do..."
The seats were filled with cheering students and faculty from both schools. Whenever an H.S. L-1378-55 team blade cut deep, through a Parochial Academy Warrior, the fans in the home team bleachers cheered. The Parochial fans cheered, whenever one of their blades impaled an H.S. L-1378-55 guy or girl.
Whenever a Warrior Guy or Girl was killed, the one who killed him or her shouted,
"Welcome to Paradise!”
Warrior guys and girls from both teams lay dead or wounded on the gym floor.
Dave Krendell sat in the gymnasium's home team seats, with Louise Torelli beside him. Dave would be taking her to the Homecoming Dance that night. This afternoon, Dave's attention was not on the home team in their dark green and yellow uniforms, or the visitors in the red and blue. Dave Krendell's attention was on Karen Bennett.
Louise sat beside him thinking. He still wants to do it with his ex-girlfriend. He doesn't look at me that way; so you can keep it in your pants tonight Davey.
The Scoreboard displayed:KILLS WOUNDS GOALS
Whenever any team member fell dead or wounded, the number on the scoreboard, under 'Kills" or "Wounds", increased by 1.
On the opposite side of the gym, the Parochial Academy Cheerleaders waved their black and red pompoms and chanted.
More meat to eat!
But we're not thrilled!
More meat to eat!
See that score!
More meat to eat!
We want more!
More meat to eat!"
Each goal consisted of a pair of fifteen-foot high vertical posts, standing five feet apart, connected by a horizontal bar across the top.
Mike Patterson and Sarah Denski stood together, blocking the H.S. L-1378-55 goal post. They both were armed with swords and shields. Mike fought a warrior guy, who was equally armed. Sarah fought a warrior girl, who also fought with a sword and shield.
Sarah got her sword around the girl's shield, plunging it deep through her left breast.
The girl cried out.
Then she laughed. "You're sacrificing me to the Lord!"
Sarah told her, "Welcome to Paradise!”
The Parochial Academy girl fell dead and the home team's kill score rose to 13.
In the seats, the home team fans cheered.
Along the H.S. L-1378-55 sideline, Cheerleaders, Alyce Vanderland and Karen Bennet stood beside each other. Alyce waved her hand out toward the fighting.
She asked, “Did you see how Francine just got herself killed? She kept her shield down. That was so careless.”
“Francine wasn’t being careless.” Karen told her, “She deliberately got herself killed ‘cause she was pregnant. That’s the right way to handle it. That’s how I’d handle it.”
Alyce asked. “So what happened? Did her implant break? That does happen every now and then.”
“No. You see, she was a Catholic girl. They have the freedom to choose not to receive the implant, on Religious grounds.”
“Then good for her. She made sure she really would be welcomed into Paradise. On the other hand, if she was pregnant and Catholic she might have a problem.”
“Well I attend a Presbyterian Church.” Karen said, “I’ve accepted Christ as Savior. That’s all anyone really needs to enter Paradise.”
Both girls returned their attention to the action out on the Gym floor.
Mike Patterson's opponent stabbed his sword through Mike's ribs; and shouted, "Welcome to Paradise!”
Then Mike Patterson fell dead, and his opponent ran through the home team's goal post.
On the scoreboard, the visitors' Kill number rose to 18. The Goal score was now,
A loud groan rose from the home team's fans.
In the cheerleading squad, Alyce Vanderland said, "Oh crap! Mike Patterson's just been killed. Now I don't have a date for tonight. I can't show up alone."
There was less than one minute left to play and the coach had decided to let the clock run out.
On the opposite side of the gym, a loud victorious cheer rose from the fans in the Parochial Team's seats.
The visiting cheerleaders' voices echoed the victory chant.
"Now we've won the game!
More meat to eat!
Bet they're sorry we came!
More meat to eat!
Now they'll hang their bitch!
More meat to eat!
'til the whore can't twitch!
More meat to eat!"
Karen Bennett called out to the other cheerleaders. "Forget the Game! One of us'll still be crowned as Homecoming Queen tonight!"
Alyce told her, "That's easy for you to say Karen. Your date hasn't just had a kill scored off him, just six hours before the Dance. Now I'm not gonna have anyone to bring me to the Dance, or do it with me afterward."
"It's all part of being a cheerleader Alyce."
Now the time had come for one of the losing team's cheerleaders to be hanged. Mrs. Ramierez, the cheerleaders' faculty advisor, now approached the squad. The firmly built, full figured woman, wore a tight tee shirt and shorts. She carried a closed carton box, with strings hanging over the edge. The girls quieted down, and began trembling.
Then the girls gathered around Mrs. Ramierez. One at a time, each girl took hold of one string, and drew it out of the box. Each string had an empty noose tied on the opposite end.
Karen took hold of one string, and drew out a cheerleader doll with the noose around its neck.
Karen began to tremble. The other girls all looked relieved.
She thought; I’m going to die now. Be brave. Die brave. I’ve accepted Christ as Savior. I’m going to Paradise.
The H.S. L-1378.55 warrior team had come to the sideline. They now approached Karen, with blood dripping from their swords, spears and shields. She stood still, fearlessly waiting for them with her hands at her side.
She told them. "I'm ready."
Karen then walked across the gym floor between two warriors, Jimmy Haskins and Larry Landis, stepping around the bodies of dead warrior guys and girls from both teams. They escorted her to the home team goal post, where a rope with a noose had been tossed over the horizontal bar, and was dangling at shoulder height.
She thought; I’m going to be killed, cooked and eaten. It’s the right thing to do. I’m going to Paradise.
Larry and Jimmy stood beside Karen inside the goal post. She faced out across the gym floor, while every warrior on the H.S. L-1378-55 team, every visiting team member, both cheerleading squads, faculty advisors, and officials from both schools, all gathered around the goal post.
This is part of being a warrior girl. She thought, I’ve killed other warriors. They died brave, and are now in Paradise. I’ll die just as brave. I’ll be in Paradise.
Jimmy Haskins stood behind her.
She felt Jimmy's hands grab her wrists, and pull them behind her back. Then she felt the cold metal handcuffs, snap shut around her wrists.
The shivering Karen said, "You'd better hang me quick. I don't want to be late for the Homecoming Dance tonight."
Jimmy, Larry, and the others who heard her laughed. Karen also laughed, as Jimmy put the noose around her neck.
She felt the noose tighten, and she was yanked straight up off the floor.
She thought; Die brave! Die brave! Our Father Who art in Heaven…
She began gagging and squirming, as she was lifted above the heads of everyone surrounding her. Some of them had to duck away from her thrashing legs. She was lifted higher, so her kicking feet passed safely above everybody's head. She could see team members and the cheerleaders below her and everyone in the seats. They were all cheering her moment of glory.
In the stands, Louise also cheered heartily at the death of Dave's ex-girlfriend.
Dave prayed silently. "Lord Jesus. Please keep Karen alive. I love her."
Karen hung there, feeling her throat being crushed, while everyone standing around her and in the stands shouted.
"Welcome to Paradise!”
Karen's throat was crushed shut. She could get no more breath. She continued squirming. Her awareness of everything was quickly vanishing. She was barely aware of the gym, the guys and the girls on the team, the cheerleading squad, and the people in the seats.
She no longer heard or saw anything. The pain was gone. She no longer felt cold. She was aware of nothing.
Karen's ghost came out of her body.
The gym was dark and empty, except for the bodies of the slain members of both teams, who'd remain where they'd fallen, until they were collected by the men from the Paradise Meat Company.
She saw herself dangling ten feet above the gym floor, with her neck crushed tight at the end of a stiff rope, her wrists handcuffed behind her back, her breasts thrust forward inside her tight tee shirt, and her bare legs had no more kick left in them.
I was a good hang, she thought. Didn't whimper, hold back, struggle, cringe, or act pathetic. Good looking hang too.
Inside her mind, Karen heard the voice of David Krendell.
"Lord Jesus. Please keep Karen alive. I love her."
Then Karen was back inside her body hanging by her neck, at the end of the rope, ten feet above the gym floor. Her throat was no longer crushed. The noose was no tighter than it had been when Jimmy first put the loop around her neck.
The lights were back on in the gym. Men from the Paradise Meat Company were collecting the bodies; tossing them onto wheeled skids, which they pushed around the floor with jacks. None of them looked up at her. She was shivering in the cold, and nobody paid her any attention.
She heard one man say, "Hey. The hanged girl."
He was told, "We'll take her down last."
"No. I just saw her move."
"Just muscular contractions. Dead people do that all the time."
The men continued their work, methodically collecting every member of both teams, who'd been killed in that afternoon's game.
They all look very comfortably dead, Karen thought, as she hung there gagging, cold and shivering, unnoticed by the workmen for more than a half-hour. It felt like a hundred years.
Then someone finally came over to the goal post and undid the knot, where the other end of the rope was tied around the post.
Karen came down fast. When she hit the floor, she made a loud groan.
The workmen came running over to Karen, and removed the noose.
"Look. Her neck's undamaged."
"Then she can attend her Homecoming Dance tonight."