Chapter 4: The Climb
The following morning comes quickly. I'm awoken sharply by the sound of a clear shout from outside. I try to get back to sleep, but the jeers and cat-calls continue, depriving me of the pleasure. I sit up, stretch and realise I'm alone.
Dizzy from sleep, I stumble over to the bars to see if I can catch a glimpse of what all the noise is about or maybe where Bane is. I look down into the main hub of the prison to see a cluster of men have gathered- at least half of the prison- and are standing in an off-circle around an enormous man who is crouched low on the floor. His fists are pounding heavily into the ground and it takes me a good few seconds to realise there's someone underneath him.
One arms sticks out from underneath the hulking mass of man, rigid as to block the onslaught. I stare for a second until it hits me.
I don't quite know how I realise it just by one steadfast arm, but I suddenly know that it's Bane under there. The men around chant something excitedly, and I spring into action. I rip across the room and grab the key from the table, then reach for the most offensive weapon within the cell- unfortunately, this happens to be one of the spatulas. Not having time to change tactics or think straight, I jam the key roughly into the lock and desperately twist it, glancing worriedly at the fight; Bane has somehow made it back to his feet, red covering his face and hands, fists clenched tightly as though he was asking for more. His well-built frame pales in comparison to that of the second man, who could easily pass for a true fairy-tale giant- his stance is that of the Nephilim, all muscle and brute force with nothing held back.
The giant takes a swing at Bane and he just manages to slide out of the way, the impact being delivered instead to a spectator foolish enough to get too close. Bane throws in one hit, but isn't able to dodge the one he receives in retaliation. The pure size of the other man throws him off, and as he tries to regain his balance he is knocked to the floor again.
The lock finally clicks and I force open the door, ramming down the line of cells, without knowing the way to the pit- down is all that comes into my head. I run past several bemused-looking prisoners, one of whom grabs my shoulder and mutters something in a humored voice- I break him off furiously and continue to dart through the ant-like city until I come to a flight of stairs and then another, grateful to at last have heeded to the ground. I look over to the crowd, still running as quickly as possible, and see the backs of many of them. I ram straight into the man at the back, who turns sharply, looking furious. I dart past him and then weave in and out of the others, until eventually they see my coming onslaught and part voluntarily. When the crowd finally breaks, I see that the enormous man has Bane by the neck against a wall, his fist pounding down upon the other man's face, which is clouded in a sheet of red. Without hesitation, I run directly at the man's back and jump up at him, somehow gaining enough leverage to wrap my legs around his torso and one hand around his thick neck- screaming, I hammer the spatula against his head in fury, each hit making a satisfying thud as it crunches against his skull. I stay like this for a minute or two- the crowd silent- just battering the giant's head, until the man becomes sick of my abuse and proceeds to hurl me off his back and across the floor.
I land with a skid and a cry, the skin torn from my forearms, and hear the familiarity of Bane's voice, defensively calling in Moroccan-Arabic. Then there are footsteps, and just as I'm halfway to getting to my knees, a hand finds the top of my right arm and hauls me upwards. I wince slightly at the pain, and when I look up, it's Bane looking down on me, his face hideous with blood.
"What are you doing?" He says briskly, looking me up and down, anger in his face.
Saving you is what comes to mind- but I realise now that this was never going to be the case. "He was beating the hell out of you," I say, surprised by his angered reaction.
"you make a fool of yourself," he says darkly, squeezing my arm tighter, his expression now putting me on edge.
"You're hurting me," I manage quietly, trying to break free of the painful grip he still holds. Bane looks down at his own hand, knuckles tensed, and slowly lets go. He takes a step back from me, rubbing his temples as though doing so might wish me out of existence.
A man in the crowd shouts something angrily and Bane sharply turns, roaring something back in retaliation. He turns to me, and some of the anger fades. He shakes his head at me, then raises his hand. I flinch away automatically, and he tries again- this time I allow it to rest on my shoulder.
"We were taking bets," says Bane more coolly, his expression softening and a slight laugh coming to his voice, "it's a game."
"What sort of a game is that?!" I say, directing my hand to his face, "look at the state of you, you're- you're dripping with blood!"
He goes to answer, but fails. I can tell by his eyes he's still annoyed- angry, even- but something in him seems to snap and he just laughs. I become aware that most of the on-lookers are laughing as well, even the giant Bane was being beaten up by. I glance down at the spatula in my hand, a gasp of laughter escaping through my confusion and embarrassment.
A few minutes later, the laughter at my expense had cooled and Bane takes hold of my shoulder, leading me away from the lightly humored crowd. There are a couple of unsavory jeers as I walk through, to which Bane gives short, threat-dealing replies. Instead of moving for the stairs back up to the cells like I had been expecting, we head straight forwards and under an alcove which leads to a short row of cells on ground level. There's a mechanical buzz and I look up to see a television screwed onto the wall.
"Is that a TV?!" I say in surprise to Bane, trying to relieve the tension of the arm-grabbing incident. "That's a bit bloody fancy for a prison, isn't it?"
"It's all about giving hope," recalls Bane, "reminding everyone of what they're missing. Keeps everybody fresh in misery and despair. Heightens the suicide rates."
I think back to the verse I'd read earlier and a slight shiver comes over me.
"Pleasant," I say dryly. "More importantly, though, why don't we get a television?"
Bane shrugs and stands outside of a cell, where an ageing gentleman sits on the end of his raised bunk. His cell is laid out differently to Bane's upstairs- this one has only two walls as opposed to three, the east wall being another row of bars with a door in-between, connecting the two cells. In that cell sits another man, perhaps in his late forties, with jet-black hair which is striped grey at the sides. He looks up after a few moments and calls something in Arabic. The older man opens his eyes slightly, both of which are milky-clouded by cataracts.
"You need to clean your face," I whisper to Bane, my hand cupping my aching arm. Not even I know quite why I said it.
"That's why we're here," Bane says back in his usual tone. He falls to one knee before the old man, takes his hand within his own and kisses the dark tepid skin there as a sign of respect. The forty-something stands from his cell and uses a rusty-looking key from his pocket to open up the door connecting the cells. Then, he steps through and takes a second key from the bed of the older man to open up the door to us.
"Another brawl." He states to Bane, his brow furrowed. His accent lies somewhere between Arabic and Eastern European, and is impossible for me to exactly pinpoint. The man, who stands at an average height, moves aside and allows Bane to pass. I follow, and the man raises his eyebrows.
"I'd heard you had conducted another of your rescue missions," said the man, his English fluent through his Eastern drawl. "How long will this one last?" I look at the man, comprehension registering. "You are not the first girl to be tucked under Bane's wing, my dear."
I don't know why this comes as such a shock, but it does. Of course there have been other women in here at some point- few and far between, I know that, but it's not a displeasure executed solely for me. I look over at Bane, who has moved to sit beside the ageing man with the clouded eyes. Bane shows no sign of recognition towards the greying man's comment. As I look at him, an odd emotion stirs- the beginnings of jealousy, mad as it seems.
Why would I be jealous? So Bane has helped other women in my position, and why shouldn't he? It does no displeasure to his character. What is there to be jealous of? I can't fathom an answer, only that there is nothing to feel so inclined towards and I'm just being stupid. Some lost sense of being special in his eyes, perhaps... maybe something more.
It turns out to be that the elderly man is the prison's old doctor, and the younger has taken over since the old doctor's eyesight deteriorated- he was taught in medical practice, he explains, by the doctor when it became apparent that he wouldn't be able to continue his profession much longer. Bane sits motionless as the new Doctor, a man by the name of Andri, wipes the sheet of blood from his face with a wet cloth.
"Too extreme," he scolds, pressing harder as Bane winces at a spot. I stand to his left, a pained expression as I see the wounds underneath the red beginning to emerge. There are two splits in Bane's lip, an unsightly gash above his right eyebrow, a disjointing in the positioning of his jaw and bulbous bruises puffing underneath his bloodshot eyes. I look down the rest of his figure to see bruises imbedded in the muscle of his exposed arms, and a large purple-blue splodge on his collarbone.
"Hold," instructs Andri, bringing Bane's thumb and forefinger to the bridge of his nose and placing them over it to stem the blood. "I have seen worse, Bane, but you must be more careful. Your back, there are no problems?"
"You are wearing the Brace?"
The Doctor gives Bane a knowing look and grabs quickly for the bottom of his shirt. He pulls it upwards, revealing Bane's midriff. "Budalla!" cries Andri in his own language, then begins to scold Bane in his home tongue, the European in his accent becoming thicker.
"Po, po, po!" Says Bane in the same dialect, in a 'I've heard it enough times' sort of voice. "Yo Baba-!"
"Dajë! Marrë, Chuni... you put it on when you go back, understand?"
"Do not forget!"
The assistant shakes his head and wipes the back of his hand over his forehead. "Who did you fight?" He asks.
"Ehiemloch," states Bane, distorted due to the fingers over his nose. Aghast, the elderly doctor by his right side scoffs, then scolds him in Moroccan-Arabic. Bane waves him off, then the younger man joins in the onslaught.
"What are you thinking, fighting him?" He barks, now attaching a scrap of bandage over the wound on bane's face, "he is far too strong, even for a man of your size. You know you do not stand a chance- Budalla!"
Bane shakes his head, then says, "I am getting better."
"Do not make yourself out to be more than you are, Bane, fighting that man is foolishness! And do not tilt your head like that, do you want to choke on your own blood?! Besides- that is not the point, Budalla! The point is you wander in here looking like you have been in a war, week in, week out, and who is left to clean your wounds? Me, always Andri!"
Bane laughs, catching a dribble of blood on the back of his free hand. I grimace at him, and he winks and grins back, blood smeared across his teeth.
"You won't need to worry about cleaning me up again, Andri. Not when this one won't let me fight." He recounts the story of me disrupting the fight armed only with my screams and a spatula, and everyone laughs, including a semi-embarrassed me and the old doctor.
"I will have to reset your jaw," says the doctor's assistant, "you have knocked it. Is it painful?"
"Extremely," says Bane, though his countenance doesn't show this fact. The doctor waves Bane's hand from his face then takes his head in both hands.
"This shall hurt," says the assistant matter-of-factly, then there's a sharp click and a grunt of pain from Bane. "No more fights. Not until the pain is gone. Yes?"
"Yes," agrees Bane somewhat reluctantly, his jaw in his hand. "Her arms," he mutters through the pain in his face, swaying his free hand in my direction. Andrei looks over to where he had been directed and nods.
"Come, I shall clean them," he says, patting the bunk beside him and reaching out for a bowl of water.
"It'll be fine," I say kindly, brushing off his offer, "it's just a graze, that's all-"
"You tell me it's just a graze when it becomes infected, and begins to fester and putrefy. Come, sit. Budalasha flokëverdhë..."
...I have no idea what I've just been called, but it didn't sound too savoury.
Not entirely keen on the idea of my skin festering or putrefying, I do as I'm told and sit on the bed. The man takes my left wrist and turns it vein-side up to examine the damage with a twist. He does the same with the other forearm, glances up to the red ring around the top of my arm where Bane grabbed me, but doesn't say anything.
He then takes a clean-ish rag and soaks it in the water and squeezes the luke-warm liquid over the light cuts on my arm. It stings slightly, but it can be nothing compared to the pain Bane must be feeling in his face.
Andri takes good time with cleaning the wound, before taking an almost-empty bottle of what I assume to be antiseptic, an alcohol-based one by the stench of it, and dripping a precious drop of the liquid onto each arm and evening it across the cuts with the wet rag. As he begins to pat my arms dry, another call takes up in the hub of the prison.
"Deshi! Basara! Deshi! Basara!"
"Another fight?" I ask, and Andri Laughs.
"No no, my dear, far better than a fight. Another shall make the climb."
"What's 'the climb?'" I ask, and this time Bane answers.
"He will try to climb the wall of the pit."
I blink stupidly- this possibility hadn't even occurred to me. "Isn't that dangerous?"
"Of course it is."
"But there is a rope," interjects Andri, still working at my forearms, "which is tied around the waist, so that if one does fall, they are secure. Still... accidents happen."
I look out of the cell bars to watch the scene- sure enough, a smallish man is clawing himself slowly up the wall, whilst a large group of others stand around, still chanting.
"What are they saying?" I ask, watching as the climber almost loses his footing on a loose shard of stone which protrudes from the wall. He quickly regains it and steadily continues his escape.
"it means, 'he rises'," Bane explains, looking up at the scene himself.
"Have lots of people done it?" I ask, inwardly questioning my own climbing skills.
"Hundreds have tried," says the doctor, "nobody has succeeded."
"That's because it is impossible," Bane cries, waving his hand dismissively. The old doctor next to him nods in agreement. "No-one has ever left this pit alive."
There's an unpleasant scuffing noise from outside, the heated chanting cuts out and is replaced by an ear-piercing scream. I look up just in time to see the man who had attempted his climb to freedom being snatched up by the rope, as it snags violently. He groans in exhaustion and despair as a new man begins to lower him to ground level, and the others disperse with mumbles of disappointment, their entertainment cut short.
Bane nods, as if to show his point has just been proven. "No-one has ever left here alive," he repeats, "and no-one ever will."
AN: yep, Bane didn't win the fight *shock*! I wanted to get across his development- a younger, less experienced Bane. He'll obviously improve with the story as he becomes more bane-ified (does that make sense?)and ooh, angry-bane. he's not all sugar and dumplings, oh no.
I included the two guys from the movie, huzahh! In our next installment, we'll be discovering just how Bane got that nasty-ass scar. Also- alcohol. i'll say no more.