A disgraced senator’s son and a resourceful orphan are thrown together on a sadistic reality show in this dystopian trilogy for fans of The Hunger Games and 1984.
Watchers is the first novel in the Watchers trilogy, available now on all major retailers. Read the first chapter below.
The computer screen switches from an old television test pattern to video of a shabbily dressed woman. A stretched-out rubber Elvis Presley mask obscures her face.
She is sitting in a small, dimly lit room with one corner of her desk visible in the frame. It is littered with soda bottles and wrinkled fast food bags, giving the impression that she does not leave this space very often. The only other thing that is visible in the shot is an Emoji Movie poster on the wall behind her.
The woman adjusts a microphone, moving it closer, and we hear a slightly muffled version of her voice through the mask. It is slightly atonal and lethargic as she begins the broadcast.
“Good evening everyone and welcome to another episode of Dystopia Today. I’m your host, Elvis Splorch, and I’ve got a special treat for you today.
We’ve been following Sasha and Daniel, our favorite couple in the Elimination Game house, for the last five weeks and y’all have been pestering me relentlessly to dig into their backgrounds. As you know, contestants don’t exactly audition and many of you have been asking for the story behind America’s favorite indentured lovers.
One of you even managed to deliver a letter to my house, which is impressive since we all know the United States Postal Service has not cared for snow or rain or heat or gloom of night for years now… but it was creepy as hell and I’d like to take this moment to kindly ask all of you to refrain from looking up dear old Uncle Elvis in real life.
Anyway, I heard your pleas. I spent days and days digging through old surveillance footage all over the city and I found that sweet, sweet background information you’ve been asking for.”
Elvis holds up a small external hard drive, waving it teasingly at the camera, then continues.
“There are eight hours of video here, all queued up and ready to go live at the push of a button. Are you ready? Are you hungry for it?”
The comments section below the video lights up with the barely literate ravings of people who have nothing more to look forward to than the life stories of a couple reality show contestants. They’ve already cleared their schedules from now until Kingdom Come and they want it.
Elvis sets down the hard drive and crosses her arms in front of her chest with a sigh.
“Here’s the thing. I can’t show you this video yet,” she says, genuine discomfort edging into her voice. “I can’t afford to show you this video and I think you all know where I’m going with this.
My donations page is currently sitting at $10. That $10 is what I have to live on this week, and it’s what keeps the lights on around here. Do you realize what the McDonald’s Dollar Menu costs these days? Let me tell you, it ain’t been a dollar in a long time.
So here’s what we’re going to do, and I want you to keep in mind that you’re forcing my hand.
I’ve got this footage all ready for you and I’m going to push that ‘play’ button just as soon as we get my donation page up to $100. That’s barely enough to keep the McDonald’s on the table and the Splorch lubricated, but I’m willing to make it happen because I love you guys. But until we reach the $100 mark, you guys are going to be watching a live stream I found of the day room at the Lower North Philadelphia Assisted Living Facility.”
The screen abruptly switches from the self-styled Elvis to a grainy black-and-white feed of a room in which five or six elderly people are sitting around, not doing much of anything. The comments section explodes with objections as a ticker appears in the bottom corner of the screen, showing Elvis’s ransom goal.
On screen, three wrinkled old women sit in recliners so plush they’re nearly swallowing their occupants. They stare blankly at a point just below the camera, and by the glaze of their eyes, it’s probably a television just out of frame.
Behind them, there are two hunchbacked old men sitting at a table with a checkerboard between them, but they both appear to have forgotten that there’s a game in progress. One is staring at the empty nurse’s station across the room and the other is picking at the hem of his shirt with a shaky hand.
It only takes a minute for the ticker in the corner to jump from $10 to $15 and Elvis says over the elderly live stream, “That’s more like it, folks. We’re not here to watch the relentless march of time – we’re here to forget about that. Keep the donations coming and we’ll be watching Daniel and Sasha in no time… and let me assure you, it’s juicy stuff!”
The ticker jumps again, this time from $15 to $23.