So. Here we go. So many fantasy stories function on the prophecy. Some high and mighty force decides person AJ2333 is just perfect for saving the world. To some this may seem like the epitome of individualism. To some, it’s little more than slavery.
Sometimes life picks you out amongst the grown and decides something is going to happen to you. This doesn’t need to be exclusive to the fantasy world. You can win the lottery or just happen to walk into a grocery store and be the 1 millionth customer. This kind of opportunity doesn’t happen every day! You should make the most of it! But in the money situation, someone that wins the big jackpot gets something else with the piles of bills. Exposure, expectations, and judgments. There is a cost to everything, even when it claims to be free.
I suppose the concept of a ‘chosen one’ is probably one of the most played out Fantasy aspects out there. But I hold my head up high when I say it is a fine base. Right when you think you’ve seen the last vampire movie, the next big thing comes out and BAM! Blood suckers are golden again. You can’t blame the genre, only the people that use it.
I am ready to take some lumps.
Today’s short story touches on that very subject. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time can change your life drastically. One idle shift of your usual procedure can end it all.
Blood sprays from my face.
It is a brilliant color,
His blood looks better.
My opponent hits the ground hard as I wipe my swollen lip with the back of my hand. I’m always at my best when I fight. I feel alive. I feel inspired.
The judge is counting, but I know he isn’t getting up. I caved in the side of his head and his eye is swollen shut. Likely the guy doesn’t even know which way is up. It would definitely be amusing if he did try though.
“C’mon! Stand up! I ain’t through with you,” I say. I don’t really mean it but it makes for a good show. The crowd is cheering and I can hear the cheers of those that were smart enough to put money on me rather than the hairless gorilla lying face down on the ground.
The judge lost his bearing from the sheer noise echoing through the air. It’s a cacophony of noises as the people that lost the gold they were supposed to be taking home to their families are wailing in agony. It’s almost like I punched them in the face too. I didn’t, if I did. They’d be dead.
“WINNER! HOAL!” The judge holds up my hand triumphantly. He has to do so at the elbow, I’m taller than the stubby man by a head. It’s less that I’m tall and more that he’s short. I guess they figure it makes it easier for them to dodge errant blows from the fighters and makes us look mighty.
I bring up my other hand for effect and the crowd roars in response. It’s a small one today, but they make up for it with spirit. I try and read the faces to see how big my coin purse is going to be. Hopefully it’s enough to get good and drunk.
The judge walks away from me to tend to the fallen man. A pool of blood is forming around him, and he isn’t moving. I can’t help but steal a peek at him despite my celebrations.
Something is wrong. Women are approaching, dressed in black silk. Typically a doctor would be stepping in to clean up the messes I leave. I lower my arms and stare, the audience mimics me and falls to a hush. They see them too.
The pool of blood doesn’t stop. It pours out from him like a river and the only motion I see from him is an erradic twitch I could set to a sundial. I narrow my eyes and wait. Five seconds pass and another twitch. His muscles are tightening, but it is not something he controls.
The man is dead.
I cross my arms as the women work. They turn him over and reveal his eye that wasn’t swollen shut is blank and glassed over. The mess of blood pours down his face. This was the work of my fists, I have matching blood on my hands. My fists have his blood on them.
The woman closest to me is beautiful. I can see the top of her breasts as she works. The black silk garb she wears isn’t made to be sexy, but she manages to make it so. I stoop over next to her and start to talk.
“I wouldn’t,” she says. He voice is as silky as the cloth she wears.
“I can sense your impure thoughts. I suggest you curtail them.”
I make a sour face. I might not have a stellar record with women, but I don’t usually get shot down that quickly. “C’mon. This shouldn’t take too long right? Let’s say you and me celebrate my victory over some drinks.”
The woman turns to the other two women tending to the dead man. They nod at the beauty in unison; one firm nod. Because of the shrouds on their faces, it’s hard to tell, but the other two aren’t even remotely cute. They are older than the woman I was talking to, and not nearly as shapely.
She stands, ruining my view in a steady motion. She’s pretty tall too. I let out a low whistle on the realization; she’s the same height as me really. When I stand to meet her my eyes are level with hers. The pale skin of her neck reminds me of the moon.
“Now that’s more like it,” I say. “You look good in black.”
She sighs but makes no move to step away. “You have no idea who I am.”
“Well yeah…” I say dully. “Does that really matter?”
“It does. Considering from this moment, you are a fugitive.” She lifts her chin to fix her gaze on me. Because of her hood I can only catch a glimpse of her steel blue eyes.
“What? Cause I killed someone? It’s golden. He died in a fist fight, shoulda invested in a tougher skull,” I say, “I do this for a living lady, but I’m not all blood and glory.”
“You killed a man in an unsanctioned fight. You think this is legal?” She gestures around. “This stinking pit is going to be your coffin. You are lucky we came before the guards.”
The smile falls off of my face. “Wait. You’re telling me I’m getting heat for this? There are pit fights going on all over the city. I’m in a league. I might not be the champion or even the best in the district, but…”
“Most pit fighters show enough restraint not to kill a man,” she says, “We felt the shadow of death in this place. That is why we are here. Now it is cast over you like a cloak.”
“So what does that even mean… don’t tell me you’re threatening me?” I say.
“No. I’m helping you,” she says, “We can use you.”
“Use me…” I widen my eyes. I recognize them now. They are children of death, a cult.
“I see you understand now,” she says.
“And if I say no?” I narrow my eyes.
“You will die at the end of a noose.” She shrugs.
I turn to the judge. He is a safe distance away from the body. My promoter was next to him, staring at me and the look on his face told me the truth of it. He was always a prick, but there was real regret on his face. I look at my hands. They have fresh blood on them.
“Well?” the woman says.
“I ain’t afraid of dying. I’d rather just celebrate my win,” I say as I tighten my hands into fists. “I’ll forget the whole thing, maybe I’ll be drunk when they find me. “
“That’s remarkably apathetic,” she says.
“I have no idea what that means lady.” I smile. “So you want to get sloshed with me so I can at least get hung with a smile on my face?”
She stares at me blankly.
“I guess that’s a no.”
“You would chose death? I offer you salvation.”
“And I’m telling you I don’t want salvation from a cult.” I narrow my eyes. “I’ll take my chances with the hangman. I will however take all the ‘salvation’ you want to give me personally.”
“I see. So you’ll join us if I personally ask you to?” She shrugs.
“Well. That’s not exactly what I meant…”
“Then what is it you mean? You will come with me if I agree to sleep with you? Life for death?”
I find myself speechless. It isn’t a bad deal, I was flirting with her anyway. But there is something about this that feels wrong. There is a black hand clawing at my center and every part of me says this is a bad idea. Well… every part of me but one.
She pulls back her hood to reveal blonde hair and she is every bit as beautiful as I figured. Her hair is short and tidy, and frames her features well. She has unpainted lips, thin and attractive. She looks young, but no younger than I was in my third year of pit fighting. Just laying eyes on her made me gape, and my mouth moved on its own.
“Yes…” I say, “I would like that very much.”
“Good then.” She offered her hand. “I will take care of everything.”
“Ah… but…” I sober a bit. “I have blood—”
“The blood will only make you stronger in his eyes. “ She smiles a dangerous, sly smile.
“Him?” I ask.
“You’ll know in time. You should get along with him. He enjoys poetry as well.” Her smile widens.
“How did you—“
“I know many things,” she says, “I shall see to it you do not regret your choice.”
She shakes her hand gently. I never took it when she offered.
The other two women stand. They are staring, but I cannot see their eyes. My own eyes cast downward in doubt and I realize the body of my opponent is gone. A wide red stain is the only sign he ever existed. My eyes turn up to her, my ‘prize’, as I dully take her hand.
I should be happy; she’s the most beautiful woman I have every laid eyes on and soon she would be mine. But I am not happy. I feel empty. My anticipation of lying with her drowns out my concerns but it feels as though I am drowning in a ball of water that is pulling me to the center.
I smile, but it is not my own. I reach out and pull her close to me, enjoying the delicate nature of her body, but it is not me that did it.
I kiss her, tasting her thin lips to the awe of spectators, but I taste blood.
What could have I done?
I have been snared in a net,
Darkness has my soul.
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