Hi guys! This is actually a short story I published in my school magazine some time ago. Please do leave your comments and criticisms…
When I was born, the world was bathed in red.
I remember lying in a puddle of my mother’s blood and excrement. I remember feeling wet – and very, very cold. I could hear every single one of my mother’s fading moans. She didn’t even try to pick me up. We lay there, the both of us; me – red, alive and squalling for all I was worth; my mother – pale, weak and fading fast.
Then suddenly, she was dead.
I vaguely recall a Large Man stumbling towards me, drunk and red-faced. He squinted at me and grunted. “Worth some money,” he muttered.
He picked me up roughly and wiped his mouth with a dirty sleeve. His breath stank of cheap liquor and sour milk. I remember being carried away to an unfamiliar place. I wailed.
“Noisy little bugger, ‘in he?” a Strange Man remarked.
“He’ll make you a good fighter.”
I remember being inspected. I was turned this way and that, poked and prodded like a cow for sale. I didn’t like it, so I bawled. But Strange Man just laughed.
“Sure has strong lungs, I’ll give you that. Parents?” he asked suspiciously.
“Dead,” Large Man said. “Found this one in an alley. Mother was cold as stone. Died birthing him, methinks.”
Strange Man frowned. “Fifty bucks for this one,” he said, picking his teeth.
“C’mon, Gage! You know he’s worth more’n that!”
“Final offer, Hob. Take it or leave.”
I remember Hob calling Gage a few choice words about where he could stick his fifty bucks. I remember Hob thundering off – with the fifty bucks, of course. I remember being handed to the fattest woman I would ever know.
I remember growing up in a dank stone cell under the City with six other boys like me. As soon as we were old enough to walk, they gave us weapons and taught us how to fight. We were pit fighters; Gage’s pit fighters, in particular. The best pit fighters there ever were.
The other boys and I were trained in the art of combat. We served the people, Gage told us. We served as entertainment to take the day’s burdens off a tired man’s shoulders and instead give him exhilaration and excitement.
I remember training hard and being praised. I remember two boys dying of inflicted wounds, but Gage told us that it was okay, because only the strong survived.
I was strong. I could survive.
For a few years, I was happy. I was fed, clothed, and wanted for nothing. But one day, food never came. Neither did it come the next day. And the next day, and the next. We waited in our cells, growing hungrier very passing day.
I remember this sharp, burning sensation in my belly. I kept drinking water to soothe it, but it never did help. The only thing that kept me going was Killian. He was my friend. F-R-I-E-N-D. Yes, that’s how you spell it.
Killian was eight, like me, and he had to finest blonde hair in the whole of the world. He wasn’t a good fighter, and Gage kicked him a lot. Gage said that Killian would be better off as an actor, but Killian wanted to be a cook. Yuck.
But that was never to be.
An agonizing period of time passed before Gage called us out into the arena. By then, I no longer felt human. Food, I kept thinking, food.
Killian was not much better off. We stopped talking after three days when the food did not come. Maybe it was hunger, or frustration, or fear. Maybe it was all three.
“You boys must be wondering why you have not been fed these five days,” Gage announced, smiling.
Only five days? It had felt so much longer.
Gage held up a plate of bread and gravy. The smell of it hit my nose. I inhaled deeply. The scent almost made me full. Almost.
Then Gage picked up a bird cage on the ground and placed the plate inside. Five pairs of eyes, including my own, followed Gage’s every movement. He locked the birdcage and hung it up on a hook on the wall, out of reach of five eight-year old boys.
“You boys,” Gage said happily, “are going to have to fight for this bread. Only the winner gets to have dinner tonight.” He paused and looked us all in the eye. “The rest of you,” he continued, shrugging, “will be dead. Now I’ll leave you to your business.”
He walked away.
Five pairs of eyes bored into each other. Then the killing began.
I don’t want to remember. I don’t, I don’t, I don’t.
But I do remember. I do. Every single detail of the whole bloody business.
In my mind’s eye, I see myself grappling with a boy with curly hair. I look him in the eye as I strangle him to death.
I see myself pounding my fist against the floor as someone punches my kidneys. I yell, and throw him off.
I see myself grab a small boy with the finest blonde hair in the world. I pull him aside and pummel him with my fists. He writhes and struggles violently against my grip. “Stop that!” I yell.
I hit him hard on his cheeks and he begins to cry. Then I look at him.
Part of me wants to stop. Part of me wants to eat.
There lives a monster in me, and at that moment, the monster makes me look Killian in the eye.
“I’m sorry,” I remember saying.
The second last thing I see is the fear in his blue, blue eyes. They are wide with terror.
The last thing I see is his blood on my hands.
Then I fall to my knees. I cry.
I am jolted from my reverie by a soft kick.
“Redding. You’re up next.”
I nod. I get up and stare at my hands to calm myself down.
Today will be another name on my arms.
For every man or woman I kill, I carve their name on my arms. The first name I carved – Killian. On my right palm, my friend’s name in engraved into my skin. My F-R-I-E-N-D.
My arms a riddled with scars – names nicknames and titles. The Bear. Rafe the Wild. Mason. Scylla.
But my left palm is blank. I am keeping that for a little special occasion.
I walk out into the arena to a crowd of cheering, screaming people. I look up at Gage. He is sitting in his box up in the stands. He gestures at me. I smile.
Tonight, I will fill my left palm with a name.