(click on the LINK to read the story online)
Try to imagine the combination of the Black Friday madness in a shopping mall with the Hunger Games and you might get an idea of what this short, brutal story is about. In a twisted, bloody version of Thanksgiving celebration, family groups engage in battle inside a shopping mall to acquire desired goods and eventually the prizes that have been hidden like Easter eggs in various locations.
The story follows the Anderson family – calling themselves The Mugs – composed by father Caleb and three teenage children, respectively fifteen, fourteen and twelve years old, as they furtively enter the Greenleaf mall armed to the teeth, ready to claim their goals. It becomes immediately clear that this kind of event is followed by television networks all over the country, as drones follow the progress of the groups and newscasters comment with various degrees of excitement as they would for a sports match – with the hideous difference that in this case the match involves the wounding or killing of one’s opponents. That’s where the comparison with the Hunger Games comes to the fore in all its chilling evidence, especially when it illustrates the backing and publicity-seeking of many sponsors…
The competition is ruthless and savage, and the mention of rules to be followed seems more like lip service to a hazy idea of fairness than anything else: these people are there to get what they want and to do so are prepared to roll over the opposition with any means at their disposal, while no one seems interested in forcing adherence to those rules. At some point we learn that
The more predatory teams would be hunting for the wounded, aiming to finish them off under the pretext of checking items off their lists. This is known as vulturing.
showing that the actual goal is not so much the acquisition of a particular object but rather the vicious joy of destroying other lives: that young people, children, are involved in this, trained from an early age to kill without the slightest qualm, and to do it efficiently, makes this story all the more petrifying, especially at the unexpected turn of events in the end.
This is not an easy read, granted, but I wonder if it might not prove helpful in giving some much-needed context – and a chance for reflection – in the running debate about guns…