Twig

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Chapter 12

All of the monsters were on display. There were wild untamed entities and things that acted intelligently. From what I could understand at a glance, each monster belonged to a different person, most of which were sitting in the stands acting as promoters. The owners were vocal about their demons. They had to convince people their pets would put on a good show before they were chosen to fight. If their monster won, they earned money or a prize. If their monster lost, they owed their opponent.

I needed something wild enough to steer up trouble, tough enough to fight the trio, but safe enough to go down eventually. I saw plenty of wild, and more than enough tough, but nothing safe. Many of the monsters possessed abilities that made containing them on the wall a challenge. I saw at least 4 or 5 break free and have to be put down. It was beginning to look like a catch twenty-two.

I stayed in the seating area watching match after match go by, but I couldn’t decide on a beast to take with me. That was until I saw “it.”

“It” was an odd creature the size of a tire. With no limbs or even so much as an actual body, it seemed to be a floating mass of black mass, a dot, a spot. The beast had a single eye and a mouth that drooled, but little else. Out of all the monsters I witnessed, “Spot” had to be the strangest. I saw it perform in a single match where it won by literally swallowing its opponent whole. Spot could eat anything that fit in its mouth, so it was wild enough. It took a team of 10 men wielding tasers to force it back into its cage on the wall, which was definitely made it tough enough. Despite being so dangerous, its cell was capable of containing whatever Spot was, so it was somewhat safe. No heat vision, tentacles, or ice shards. I wouldn’t call myself confident, but out of all the beasts there, I had a chance of controlling Spot.

Making my decision was the easy part. The hard part was finding and convincing the owner to give me the creature.

Spot’s owner was almost just as odd as it was. Unlike the other owners, Spot’s keeper was silent. I found him sitting at the outermost seats of the stands above and away from everyone else. His eyes were dead set, his hair was wild, and his hands were claws. Something about him felt familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on why. As I approached the ominous figure, he never turned to look at me. His eyes stayed on the battlefield, but he spoke before I stepped within arms reach.

“Take one more step, and you won’t take another,” he said.

His speech was fractured as if every syllable that left his mouth was preplanned, cold, and meant to intimidate. I stayed where I was. His claws were sharp enough to kill, but that didn’t scare me. At the time, I thought respecting boundaries could help convince the stranger to give me Spot in the long run.

“Are you the owner of 247?” I asked.

Every monster’s cage had a number painted on it. After deciding I wanted Spot, I went around asking everyone if they knew who 247 belonged to. Whoever I was speaking with just so happened to be the right guy. His cold dismissive demeanor was ironclad.

“Who’s asking?” He said exhaustedly, while sharpening the tips of his fingers against themselves.

“I want it,” I said.

He finally turned his head. His eyes looked up, then down before he looked away again.

“Leave,” he said.

The slightest grin crept up onto his face. He didn’t respect me. He thought I was joke.

“I said, I want 247,” I argued, and in doing so, I took a half step closer.

Without warning, he sprang up and cut through my body with a single claw. It wasn’t enough to kill me, of course, but it knocked me on my ass and took a chunk of my flesh.

Suddenly I remembered that wild hair and those beastly claws. They belonged to one of Mock City’s worst. It took the Trio a solid year and a half to lock him away. It was their deadliest villain, Splice. He didn’t have his iconic mask, but that made sense. His mask gave him the ability to copy other people’s powers. The Trio probably took it before dropping him in The Play Pen.

I couldn’t believe Splice, The Splice tried to kill me. And he failed. It’s a good thing he didn’t have his mask; otherwise my powers would have made him unstoppable. As he was, I didn’t feel I had much to fear.

I got back to my feet, and he stood ready to cut me again.

“I want 247,” I reiterated while my wound started to heal, “I’m willing to trade or...”

“That power,” he almost hissed with greed when he cut me off.

“Are you listening?”

“How did you end up here, I wonder,” he ignored me but began closing the space between us.

“We can make some sort of deal if we need to, but,” I tried to bargain while I backed away slowly.

He caught me by my neck and held me off my feet, strangling the air out of me while his sharp fingertips punctured my throat. My hands grasped his fingers and his wrist, attempting to pry myself free. While I struggled, he lifted his free hand to my chest, and like a spear he stabbed through. He retracted his natural weapon painfully slow, but once he witnessed the hole made through my body, he dropped me.

“Incredible,” he said while I hunched over on my knees, trying to get my bearings.

“You can’t kill me,” I protested like a defeated child.

All the while, he stood over me, cleaning his claws.

“Why would I ever want to kill something so valuable,” he said.

When I finally had it in me to stand again, he returned to his seat. His eyes went back to the battlefield.

“You want my monster? Earn it,” he said.

I was hesitant to stand so close after being tossed around like a ragdoll. Death or no death, the pain was pain. Being shot by lightning sucked, but the intimate moment of having another man’s fist punch through my organs was terrifying and intense. Each of his fingers made separate but equal damage.

“How?” I questioned.

Holding my ground felt like suicide, but I stayed as still as I could. Stepping back would have been a sign of weakness, but stepping forward might have caused an even bigger scene. Although, no one seemed to care Splice tried to kill me. I suppose anywhere a mass murderer could roam freely wouldn’t watch whether he engaged in murder.

“Conquer it in the arena,” he added.

“You want me to fight Spot?” I asked.

“Spot?” He said.

" 247,” I said.

“Yes,” splice sighed before he continued, “defeat ‘Spot’ in battle, and you may take it with you.”

“Just like that?”

“I am a man of my word,” he said.

Why did it always come down to a fight? Couldn’t things be settled through civil conversation? Of course not. That would have been too easy. Mock City never made things easy.


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