“This is not a joke, you do understand that,” the man said sensing the hesitation of the crowd gathered in the small village’s square. “This is not a joke.”
The mass of people murmured restlessly. They had always thought this man was a raving lunatic publishing these leaflets about the hunts and the one century deadline payback.
“When you hear the bells toll, run,” he continued pointing at the church tower.
There was an elderly man on the front row, very close. He raised his hand and the whole town hushed.
“If this is not a joke, can you tell us what will happen?”
The man looked down and mumbled something. Then he looked at the old man and shook his head.
“It won’t be good… They will hunt us down like animals. The best thing to do is to just run as far away from the village as possible. The rules say they can hunt us down inside the village limits, so run, run as fast as you can.”
Some people sneered not believing a word of what the man was saying.
“Why don’t we run now, to have a head start?” asked the old man.
“Until the game begins, they can hunt us outside of the village. So our best chance is to stay here for now.”
A few people started sobbing.
“We knew this day would come. We all knew that,” said the man. “I have been trying to remind everyone of this, but you all thought I was mad...”
The old man walked towards the man and stood beside him.
“Go home; grab food and a warm jacket. Be ready for the bells. When you hear them, run there.”
A few hours later, there was a blue smoke on the horizon. That was it. The man ran up the stairs of the church tower and pulled the rough rope as hard as he could. The bells made a loud nervous sound. And the village ran.
As the hunters walked through the main street, victorious, expecting to see scared people fleeing to save their lives. But they saw no one. They searched every corner, every household. Nothing. After a few frustrating hours, they gave up. A note was pinned on the church door which said “See you in a hundred years.”
The man came out of hiding from where he watched the hunters leave and tolled the bells again. Everyone appeared cautiously from an almost invisible trap door by the old man’s garage. Throughout his life he had built a secret underground room for the whole village. He looked at the man and smiled.
“I was listening.”
“And we didn’t have to run.”
The old man nodded.