ScifiShort fiction

Happy Birthdie: a short story by GF Willmetts.

‘Happy birthdie to you, happy birthdie to you, you have sixteen hours to live or die.’

I raised my eye at the autoclock as its voice spoke. Some people get stuck in straight away. Me? I’d rather some shuteye first before people try to kill me on my birthdie. Some people try sleeping all through their birthdie but become an easy target because other people know where to find them. No good looking for weapons, they would be electronically locked against anyone on their birthday today. It was now a matter of survival by any means possible from people who’s weapons actually worked. Nothing like giving any birthdie celebratory a chance to win. Who wants to meet their possible death half asleep?

You never celebrate your actual birthday on your birthday. Mostly because you spend much of it just trying to stay alive. It isn’t just against natural disasters but some bastard likely to think you‘ve been getting away with it for too long and trying to poison you or being more blatant with a bullet.

I also didn’t want to risk possible death on an empty stomach like I did last birthdie. I was spending as much time looking for something to eat as avoiding being shot, stabbed or whatever my so-called friends were determined to aim at me.

The autochef gave me a good breakfast after I finished dressing as I scanned the news and used the peeper to look outside. No sense being naïve and walking into a waiting ambush. There were a couple hundred of us in this part of the city with the same birthdie. No sense teaming up. Too many likely to think they’d score beanie points if they burnt someone else with the same birthdie. Nearly learnt that to my cost five years ago. Nice dame until she tried to bludgeon me. That was a long drop.

Happy Birthdie: a short story by GF Willmetts.
Happy Birthdie: a short story by GF Willmetts.

Any weapons I had were turned off for the day. No ID recognition for my tag. Others have tried knocking off the ID tag and made the weapon totally useless. The black market was one option except on birthdie when you were just another target to make a bounty profit from. Even if I got them first, I couldn’t use their weapons. Had to use anything I could pick up. I stashed a flick in my sock. Probably only good close up but if anyone thought they could soften me up first, the best position to get at was curled up on the floor trying to prevent my ribs being kicked in and I had the flick in my hand.

There are a lot of choices what to do next. The main ones are to get any stalkers first, wait until they come at you or try to stay out of trouble. I’ve done all variations over the years or I wouldn’t be here now. All about being adaptable enough to live another year. People also get used to such behaviour and remember for another year if they survived. Grudges when they are outwitted. Dead if they don’t get away. Always a pecking order.

Of course, not everyone goes on a relentless day-to-day attack and murder. There’s still the city to run and a rest from time to time. Even so, I was a big target. My property ownership was gained by survival and any whipsnapper taking me out would inherit it all. The job had even more prestige, even if the chances of surviving their own birthdie would have just as many people lining up to take them down. Even in my heyday, I would see me as a good target. This time, there was a different plan. So simple really.

I walked down the street and realised I had a tail. He wasn’t going to take me out in the open but probably close-up. All it would take was shooting someone not on a birthdie and all your assets went to their family. So I obliged him and ducked into a side street and stepped into the shadows. As he passed me. I kicked the backs of his legs and broke his neck as he fell to the floor. In a doorway, I switched clothes. If you can’t use tagged weapons, then you had to get close and use hands.

It would be so tempting to pose as him for the rest of the day but a bio-scan might reveal something different. Besides, I might try that another year. This time, I wanted to pose as this chap, I looked at his ID before slipping it back in my…his jeans. Someone who was stalking me was just as good a disguise. I slipped on his hat and stepped back into the main street, looking around perplexed as if I’d lost my prey and then continued down the street as the spy-cams out there must have watched.

Hunting myself, I could go to my old haunts because that would be where I would expected to be. I could also see who else was stalking me. Took a lot of shit out of the hunt only I was now the hunter as much as the hunted. Some of them might have been my friends until tomorrow. I never said I was their friends. The old keep your enemies close was commonsense as you wanted to know where they were and how their minds worked. So-called friends were even more dangerous as they knew what you had. Them knowing was in my home meant they wouldn’t go in trashing it. ‘Course, that was never going to happen. Right now, they were looking for someone who looked like me and I wasn’t looking like me. The odds were supposed to be against me when any ID-controlled weapon was turned off against me. I was changing my MO. It didn’t have to be my finger on the trigger.

I sat down in the plaza outdoor café, next to Rojak. He wasn’t even paying attention to me but looking the other way for me or someone like me to come that way. Maybe I should have kept my other tail alive and wearing my clothes. Always another time for that.

‘There he is’, I whispered.

Rojak turned, his gun out, my elbow hit him under the chin and I directed his gun at the three opposite me.


Game over. I put the fourth bullet into Rojak, using his hand on the trigger and walked off. So much for friends. Got them before they got me. Enemies would be a lot harder. Maybe I can pull this off again. People lose their objectivity. All they see is the kill, not how to do it.

With this kill rate, I might even equal my age in birthdies.

There’s been talk about reducing the age of birthdie but I think that would cut the population down too quickly. We have enough problems with teens doing it illegally thinking they can jump up the properly ladder as it is.

There are places where you shouldn’t go for a kill. Throwing people off mountains or into the sea. So easy to fall in yourself. You need evidence of the act that can be accrued back to you. ID-proving bullets is one thing but a bit hard when there is no body to back it up with.

‘Course, being disguised as someone else meant I was hardly visible to anyone else after me. Someone might be interested in my little group murder, so I found another outdoor café nearby and watched for anyone taking interest. The enemies would watch the friends. Anything to cut down the time stalking and either go after another birthdie person or take the rest of the day off. The fact that they were ganging up shows how dangerous they thought this birthdie boy was and I was pretty high up the list. If they were playing by that rule, then they must expect me to wipe the floor with them. No winners. Even then there’s a pecking order. Usually the weakest stalkers came first. If they were successful, so be it. The more experienced teams rather watch, learn what they did so they could go after them when it was their birthdies.

I looked around. Electro-eyes or stodges. Probably both, I’d probably lose their estates doing it, but having a few of these teams taking each other out would make my life easier. Not that I was afraid of a fight, I was just getting bored but didn’t want to die, which is often what happened in these circumstances once a year. Probably why it was rare for anyone to reach old age.

Actually, it was a lot easier than it looked. I just walked past one team, slipped a link into one of their pockets and watched the other team walked towards them and opened fire. Of course, some would survive but three out of nine wasn’t bad. They were wounded and not likely to follow me. Judging by the bullet holes, they won’t last long. Must keep an eye on where they learnt to shoot. Might spot the ambitious.

Of course, there are the contenders who also want my job. Assassination is usually the way to the top and any other contenders have to wait until their own birthdie before they can be faced.

In one of the many interviews over the years, I’ve been asked by the nervous how they can avoid being killed on a birthdie. That’s pretty obvious. Don’t have a job other people would want or have people willing to come after you. A lot of people survive that way. There wouldn’t be any population otherwise.

If I was going to continue my pre-emptive strike this year, I would have to think like they would. Catching me unawares, like finally returning home and being shot on the doorstop would make good news in the media the next day. It could even be a bomb although a lot harder to claim my estate and job without proof. I wandered off and came back an hour later dressed as a technician and examined the door. The sniper gun I had found was already turned off. The pad here confirmed the frequency, easy enough to track down. A little surprise for later.


I dropped to the ground but not to the nearest doorway. Someone had been watching me. Must have saw me change but opted to wait. Couldn’t have been sure of doing it themselves so hired an assassin. I want the organ-grinder not the paid monkey who wanted to keep his hands clean. If I play dead then he’ll take another shot to make sure. Was he watching me throughout or watching those after me to get the shot. Maybe even claim the shot if they had got me first.

He’d have to come to look. Needed to think fast. Let him see a body and report for his fee and follow. Kill him and means facing another sniper bullet. Of course, whoever came next would have to be able to find me. Here was I planning for an easier birthdie. There was a third way.

What a pity the assassin was a woman. The flick served its purpose. I switched clothes. At least she was wearing jeans and not a skirt. A little tight in all the wrong places but it would make it look like I died for all of 5 minutes when they realised I was the wrong sex.

Do I have any compassion for those I’ve killed? What do you think? Just as much as they have for attempting to kill me. None at all. More divorces happen before birthdies rather than risk being killed by their wives. It’s more surprising that there aren’t more widows.

I popped into one of the assassins bar haunts, bought a beer and sat in the background. I could be lucky and they’d come here for someone else. I didn’t expect to see Kormaslack. He was supposed to be loyal. I left his poisoned body and walked out. Time to get another change of clothes and a late lunch. All this killing was leaving me with an appetite. I had considered taking on the contract myself. A certain amount of irony in taking a contract on myself. Maybe I’ll do that another time. Certainly be novel. Could write a book on the subject. Dry laugh from the non-existent audience.

It would take a few hours before the body count was apparent and the victim was winning. A few more hours to the end of my birthdie. What had happened to the type of talent that tried to kill me in the past? These weren’t as good. Maybe I’d have an even easier birthdie next year. That would be a trick. No opposition. Fat chance. There’s always likely to be people after my job. Just takes one mistake.

Why did this happen in the first place? To simplify democracy. I kid you not. All the palaver over having elections when what was really needed was survival of the fittest. You needed to be clever to survive plus a killer instinct when needed. We couldn’t have it happening all the time so it was decided on birthdays, a once in a year occasion. If you wanted someone’s job enough, then you killed and replaced them. Not all jobs I grant you, you still had to be qualified. Just the important ones in management. It got rid of the useless managers within a couple years. Not all jobs were coveted. I mean, would you really want to manage the sewage systems? Well, only if you wanted to control pollution. It quickly got rid of a lot of bad blood and to the victors their estates. The side effect of this was we were slowly removing the more, shall we say, psychopathic tendency managers or at least the extreme ones. There would be a time this would have to stop or we’d have a society that was too non-aggressive and not doing much at all.

When I first won this job, I was busy killing off my opposition every birthdie. This year is quite slack in comparison. Maybe overt ambition is finally running out. I counted the number of people who were probably after my job. Not quite yet. Once I was out of the way, whoever was in the office wouldn’t last very long, not expecting the others to go after him…or her. That was an idea. I mob called them to a party, saying I was dead. The cake was waiting for them.

I watched from a distance. Others would use a bomb but that might kill non-targets. The mix of champagne, cake and poison, something they wouldn’t resist, and seven bodies later. Three didn’t turn up. Always had to be some who suspected something, especially my key opponents.

I texted all three of them off my anonymous account saying that their tenure wouldn’t last long while the other two lived. I knew their birthdies so it was just down to who was the fastest shot. The needs of the job beat the birthdie even if it was technically illegal. An early birthdie and none of them would last a year. Then there was one and I had time for a late night supper.

Almost midnight and my last key opponent was waiting a little distance from my estate house. Him with a gun and me unarmed, I really had no chance as he didn’t stand on ceremony and just shot me. I fell back onto the pavement, gave a few shudders and didn’t move. All in the timing, see.

He searched my clothing for my key token, confident he’d finally beaten me and went to the door. As he opened it, he clearly had forgotten or maybe it wasn’t him who had set up that auto-sniper weapon earlier. It delivered three slugs in quick succession. He never had a chance to enjoy his win.

I got up and adjusted the Kevlar vest I had under my clothes that had also hid my heartbeat and flicked off the auto-switch I had added to the auto-sniper rifle across the street. Should I leave it there? I screwed my nose up at the thought. There wasn’t anyone like to attack me again until my next birthdie but it might make other rivals a bit more wary next time.

In the meantime, its back to business. No, I don’t want to see a revival of that old democracy way. Someone should stay in charge until someone better comes along. We need spirited people in charge, just not psychopaths who just lived for the job. Happy birthdie to me. Happy birthdie to me. Just don’t come after me at least not until my next birthdie.



© GF Willmetts 2023

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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