Wednesday, September 28, 2011

O come all ye faithful

I didn't. I couldn't. I'm ashamed of myself for being so cowardly, but I didn't go after her as I said I would.

No, instead I went out and about, and walked the whole day away. I even went to see a movie. I feel asleep about ten minutes in and woke up right before the end. I can't remember what it was. A thriller, I think. A murder mystery. The slick private investigator had to be admitted to the hospital because he had three bullets in his leg, one in his shoulder, and one in his stomach, but the killer was locked up behind bars, so it ended fairly well for all involved.

Then I went to the club. Not the dancing-and-drinking-and-drop-it-like-it's-hot kind, but a fight club. No holds barred, all moves allowed. And the only concrete rule was to stop hitting when your opponent goes down for the count, unless you really can't help it. The place catered to every kind, and though the betting was costly, there were usually good odds and great payoffs. One time a fighter walked out fifteen thousand dollars richer.

When I got there a fight had just started. There weren't many spectators that night - maybe a dozen total, including myself. I had been here before, and I had fought here before, and I had sent a lot of guys to the hospital before - kinda like the detective in the movie, only without the bullets. But never killed. I could always stop before I went too far. When I had watched the first thirty seconds or so of the two guys shuffling around in circles and talking smack, I went over to the betting table and put down thirty-five bucks at ten to one on the blue corner - my regular corner. Then I pulled up a folding chair to the bars of the cage and watched.

The blue corner fighter was of average height, and he looked pretty bulky, but that could have just been his baggy clothes. He wore a black hoodie - I started to get nervous when I saw that, but decided it was probably nothing - with some yellow symbol on the back. He was moving fast enough that I didn't get a good look at it, at least at first. He had worn, faded blue jeans, and fairly heavy-looking hiking boots, so I figured someone was getting smashed in the face. The orange corner fighter was pretty skinny-looking, the kind of guy you'd never bet on unless you were itching to go broke, but he was fast and knew where to hit. Besides jeans and sneakers, he had on a pair of dark shades, a grimy undershirt, and what looked kind of like a red fishing hat.

The next few minutes were about as interesting as the first few, but it gave me time to think about Bambi and Beauty and the Creature and myself and how much money I was likely to be making that night. I was just about to withdraw my bet and not risk losing what little cash I had when the blue corner fighter struck his opponent full in the face. The orange fighter dropped to the floor, and the blue fighter was about to pull him up and hit him again when he swung his leg out and tripped Blue. When Blue had fallen flat on his face, Orange rolled over and started swinging at his prostrate form. Blue looked like he just wanted to take the hits, but when orange thought he had won and stood, Blue leaped up and kneed orange in the chest.

They were both panting already, hands on knees, grinning those stupid manic grins that a lot of guys grin. It occurred to me that these guys probably knew each other well beforehand. Then Blue lifted one of his heavily-weighted feet and kicked Orange in the shoulder, knocking him down again. His hat came off near my part of the stands, and I got a good look at the thing - it was designed like a lady bug, with two cartoony eyes, two curving lines that could have been antennae had they not been two-dimensional, and plenty of black spots. Orange grabbed his hat and stuffed it into his pocket before rushing at Blue, but the man in the black hoodie hit him with a quick left hook, sending him sprawling on the floor for the third time. Blue placed his foot gently on Orange's neck, and Orange quickly tapped out. They exited the cage from their respective sides, and I walked over to the betting table to collect my money.

When I had finished counting, I slapped down fifty dollars. "Put me in," I said.

The manager looked me up and down and said, "You sure, man? You don't look so hot." We're old friends, and he knew me before everything went wrong. But I nodded earnestly and pushed the money towards him, and he whistled to signal for someone to open the gate. Fighting and its profits there is simple. You have to pay fifty dollars as an entry fee. If you win, you get five hundred, plus half as much as was lost in bets that round, the other half being kept by the club. Every round after, you only get the half of the betted money, until you stop and enter again. You go up against the winner of the previous round and keep going until you get beat or leave. I've left plenty of times, but I've only gotten beaten once - in the first fight of my second night.

I noticed that the ladybug man had disappeared, as if he vanished into the shadows - well, I wasn't going to dawdle like he did. At least, that was my plan, but it looked like the guy in the hoodie - who was now in the orange corner - had had the same idea. He hit me upside my head with that strong left hook, and I backed up against the bars of the cage, ears ringing. It was on. I rushed him, diving at the last moment and grappling him around the knees. The hoodied guy tried to kick me as we went down, but if it connected I didn't feel it. I scrabbled on the floor until I was standing over him, and then I kicked him, hard, in the stomach. He tried to swing out with his leg like the ladybug guy had, but I dove to the side and kneed him in the chest as I threw myself down. I still ended up on the floor, but now I was in control. I got up and put my hand around his throat, completely lifting him off the ground, and held him against the cage. His hand convulsed, but he didn't tap out, so I dropped him and slid backwards, watching him all the way.

Then it got interesting. And fairly terrifying. I could feel the change, but I didn't even try to stop it. My mind lost all semblance of clarity, and I headbutted the hoodied guy in the stomach, and started to claw at his face. He struggled away from me, but I stomped on his knee, and he cried out in pain before hitting the floor and starting to roll away. I think I may have growled something - "Tap out," maybe - but he just gritted his teeth and got up again, limping, face contorted with pain. While he was on the ground I finally got a good look at the symbol on his hoodie: Ω. Then I cracked him in the neck with the side of my open palm, and he dropped like a stone in the ocean. I felt so angry at how horribly everything has gone recently, and...I reached down again and grabbed him around the neck, slowly choking the air and life out of him.

Then someone - the manager, probably - called my name, and the change stopped. I let go quickly and stomped out of the cage. I grabbed my winnings, leaving me with a solid eleven hundred, and walked up the stairs into the dark foggy night. I don't think anyone saw me crying, but I didn't have time to do it for very long. A long dark car with tinted windows pulled up in the street in front of me. The front passenger window rolled down about five inches, and a gloved hand came out, holding something small and black. It almost looked like a gun, but then whoever it was pushed a button, and I fell unconscious like the man in the hoodie, having been tasered for the second time in my life.

When I woke up - a few weeks ago - I was in a pretty bare hotel room - I still am. There was a shower, a small, stocked kitchen, and a cot, and that was about all. The window is large, but barred, and the door is locked. I tried to break it down, but something is keeping it shut on the other side. Two days after I was imprisoned, or at least two days after I woke up, a TV appeared across from the cot. They must have come during the night, when I slept. It's an old TV, but it has color, and it staves off boredom usually. About a week later a crate was set next to to the TV, full of books, comics, magazines, and the like. They've taken to delivering the daily paper every morning, probably through the crack under the door, and I guess I'm thankful for all that, if not for being imprisoned. The kitchen is always restocked whenever I'm about to run out, and just yesterday they gave me a desk and a computer. Like the TV, it's pretty outdated, but it works, if a little slowly. I sat here all day yesterday and most of today trying to write all of this.

I plan on breaking out of here tomorrow and finding...a place that I've heard of. Maybe it will have some answers. Maybe it will help me find my song.

Speaking of songs, tomorrow is Rosh Hashanah. I was Jewish before...before everything. Now I guess I'm really nothing. But maybe I'll say a few prayers and hope I get out of here.

And from the hard time living to the sleepless nights
And the black-and-blue body from the weekend fights, he'd say...

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