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Deserted Village

"I think I've found myself a new house," Sue said. "Bit out of town, but it's spectacular. Modern, lots of glass, enclosed courtyard, brilliant views. Quiet area, but seems to be popular. Lots of recent sales listed on the Web. This one's a deceased estate, so the price is good."

"Have you asked why the area's so popular?" Kathy asked.

"I know they filmed a TV series there," Sue said. "Maybe that's why people know about it."

"Have you seen the TV series?" Kathy asked, a slightly ominous tone in her voice.

Sue shook her head.

"Have you asked why it's a deceased estate?" Kathy continued. "Or whether the other sales were deceased estates too?"

Sue shook her head again. She couldn't see what Kathy was on about.

Kathy persisted. "You said it was quiet. Did you see anybody? Was anybody driving around? Were there any shops? Were they open?"

Sue was angry. "What's going on? What's the secret?"

"Who showed you the place?" Kathy said. "A legitimate estate agent, or a TV extra pretending to be an estate agent?"

"It was supposed to be an open house, but I was the only one there, except for the agent."

"And a stack of hidden cameras, I bet."

"You think it was a setup?" Sue said.

"If the name of the place is Beltane, it certainly is. It's the archetypal deserted village. Started with a reality TV series based on murder mysteries. Lights go out. When they go back on, dead body in living room. Who dunnit? As it went on, the plots got more elaborate, the methods more devious. Tree falls on house, killing residents. Villain was a possum, making its hole bigger. But who egged the possum on? Who substituted cyanide for the fluoride in the town water supply? Who put the acid in the garden sprinkler? Who managed the hit-run using a float in the middle of the annual procession? Who spiked the umpire's orange?

"But even then, new scenarios were getting thin on the ground, so they threw it open to the viewers, with prizes for the best plots. Some of them were spectacular, like the tunnel under the main street (an escape bid by council workers or an attempted bank robbery -- it was wasn't clear which) that caves in causing a ten vehicle pile-up with lots of fatalities, the mass koala hunt in the national park which wiped out the hunters, or the scavenger hunt for the maximum number of bodies, while others relied on the more usual motivations of money, rage and jealousy.

"Problem was, some of the viewers didn't understand the rules and thought they actually had to do the murders to qualify. That's what got rid of the last few residents."

"So has the series finished now?"

"No way. The emphasis now is on the new residents. Who they are. What's going to happen to them."

"So that's why the house was so cheap."

"And that's why there would have been cameras at the open house."

Sue clenched her teeth. "There should be warnings," she hissed.

"Beltane Murders is a big ratings success," Kathy said. "They say they need to repopulate for the next series."

"They're trying to kill me. I should kill them."

"Delegate it. Put in a plot proposal."

Sue grinned suddenly. "You mean, like someone creates a big earthquake which brings down a high rise TV building that wasn't designed for earthquakes, crushing all the occupants."

Kathy nodded. "Spread it around a few of the fan sites. Somebody will do it for you, for sure."

Copyright D.W. Walker, 2014


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