Quarter to midnight and Quinn still trailed that damn Horus321 from Australia by fifty votes.

“There’s always last minute votes.” He knew that. But, still…

Quinn gnawed a cuticle, squinting at every blip of the dare-o-meter on his laptop’s screen. He paced in his dark bedroom. He plopped back into the chair. He paced again.

“I can win. My dare can still win.”

Back at the desk again, awash in light cast by his laptop, Quinn desperately willed his vote total to climb faster. Now he was just thirty-two votes behind that damn Australian and his stupid dare to jump off an old water tower with a homemade hemp cord.

No one else in this week’s dare-off was even close. Only Horus321 stood between Quinn and the fame he craved. was an obscure website, never listed among the first two hundred hits in any search, usually only found following link by link by link. That’s how Quinn learned of it, late night surfing, the Internet equivalent of word-of-mouth.

The premise was simple. Sign in, pledge a dare early in the week — the more outrageous the better — then thousands around the world vote for the one they want to see. At midnight Friday the dare with the most votes wins.

And when you win you have to do your dare, right then, videocasting live to prove it, and everybody votes on your performance, up to five stars. If you don’t do what you promise, the infamous rooster appears on screen, dances, clucks, calls you chicken, and the DoYouDare blog fills up with nasty comments, crude jokes, and personal insults.

Last week, some guy from England tried to swallow a live baby alligator. He almost lost his tongue. He ended up with two stars for trying. Three months ago, a skinny Japanese girl dove naked into a tub full of fanged snakes. She only got bit three times and ended up in the hospital. That was worth four stars. Pretty high in the DoYouDare Hall of All-Stars.

Last year, a guy from California calling himself walt-the-ought ran south in the middle of a northbound freeway, cars squealing off the pavement left and right, a truck almost turning him into road splatter. That was awesome.

The police were still looking for walt-the-ought. vanished for three months, but rebooted when the shouting died down.

walt-the-ought got four point nine nine nine stars. Nobody’d ever gotten a perfect score. And they were still talking about walt-the-ought on the DoYouDare blog. Still talking about him a year later.

That’s what Quinn wanted… somebody still talking about him a year later. Better yet, years and years later. That was fame. These days, what else was there?

And tonight was his best chance ever. He was closing on Horus321, only twenty votes behind with eight minutes to go.

Week after week, Quinn thought up one dare after another, and never even cracked the top ten on the dare-o-meter — until tonight. Only Horus321 and his lame bungee jump blocked Quinn’s path to the Hall of All-Stars.

Thirteen votes behind. Four minutes to go.

“Feeling the heat, Horus321? Huh? Feeling it?” Quinn shouted at his laptop. “Come on, people! What more do you want?”

He fiddled with his videocam.

Two minutes to midnight. Eight votes behind. The vote totals climbed.

“Yes!” Quinn took the lead with a minute left, lost it with forty-eight seconds, got the lead back by three votes… some people waited to the final seconds just to claim they cast the last vote… twelve seconds… eleven… ten… Horus321 closed to one vote… eight seconds… seven… another vote for Quinn, then two for Horus321… four seconds… three… two…

The dare-o-meter exploded into multicolored confetti and declared MIDNIGHT in glowing, pulsing, yellow letters. The rumble of drums.

Quinn won, 69,566 to 69,565, the closest vote ever, the dare-o-meter declared.

“I… won!”

A god-like baritone oozed from Quinn’s laptop, matching words large and flame-like crawling across the monitor. “You dared to win… NOW DO IT! Or are you chicken? All mouth, no guts, clucker?”

The cartoonish head of a quizzical rooster peeked into the monitor screen from the side.

“DO IT!” The words exploded on the screen. Numbers appeared, counting down from thirty.

“DO IT!” the baritone barked.

Quinn activated the videocam. He picked up his father’s hunting knife and plunged it into his neck. Blood gushed.

Between the blood trails spattered across the laptop screen, before he lost consciousness, Quinn saw his approval rating hit five stars. He smiled. Fame…

David J. Rank is a working journalist in eastern Wisconsin esconced in the glacial hills between the Green Bay Packers and the Milwaukee Brewers. He often finds himself peering into shadows and reports what he sees. His flash fiction and micro fiction stories have been published in AlienSkin, MicroHorror and Apollo’s Lyre ezines.

This story was sponsored by
Naked Metamorphosis — All the world’s a stage… and Franz Kafka wants to direct. An absurdist’s version of Hamlet complete with heretofore unexplored heights of depravity, cockroach transformation, Shakespearean bawdiness, and split infinitives!

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