Waking Other Lives

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Chapter 19: The Leader

I was probably gonna die today, but I would do my best to inflict the maximum damage on this asshole who shamed all human kind. That, I decided, was my only objective. The others had already emptied a large space for fighting, they were grinning, their faces reflecting a cruel excitement in expectation of the entertainment to come. I was disgusted, this is what the gladiators must have felt when the Romans cheered as they entered the stadium.

No wonder Ozy was willing to let his cousin die, now it all made sense, after all he had challenged Seth, fought and lost. The rebel unit was led with an iron hand, guided by cruel, barbaric rules. I cursed at the luck that brought us here. My eyes sought Seth with the hope that he would wake up and save me from this nightmare, but he was knocked out fully. In fact, I saw that his immobile body had been carried and dumped at the far end of the room. There was to be no savior from this fight, I had to accept.

Travis was averting my eyes, it was obvious he was shaking with pangs of fear and guilt, his shoulders slumping over the thought of sending me to my death.

I squeezed his arm lightly, “It’ll be all right, you’ll see,” I said, more for his benefit, than mine. I was after all the big sister, my job was to protect and comfort him, regardless of the many times he’d irritated the hell out of me back at home.

“C’mon little girl, I don’t have all day,” chuckled Jack as he crouched into a fighting stance and he started circling around me.

Holy crap, this was no joke! I breathed heavily, my heart was thumping wildly, I was damn scared, my hands were sweaty, my forehead was sweaty, my whole body was sweaty. I backed up a few steps by miracle when he threw his first punch, the fist passing so close by my jaw that I felt the vibrating air brush my skin. But, I wasn’t that lucky the second time, my head rocked back with the power of the punch on my jaw which nearly dislocated it. I felt a trickle of blood run down my chin, red hot pain exploded on my face. Before I could protect myself, he hit my nose, letting blood spray to my face. This was quickly followed by a fist across my cheekbone, and a kick in my rib, the force of which took me to the ground, knocking the air from my lungs.

The moment my body hit the floor, I heard the chanting coming from the crowd, “Kill, kill, kill her...”

I lifted myself on my elbows, barely raising my swollen face, just to spot Travis, who was crying silently. At that moment, I was blessed with another kick right at my breastbone, and I fell back again, my chin hitting the floor with a loud smack. I was surprised the hit had not knocked out any of my teeth. He knelt on the floor with an evil smirk, getting ready for his last move. I saw his hairy arm snake around my neck, but before it tightened, I bit him hard, so hard that I tasted his vile blood. My teeth sank deeper and deeper into his skin as his almost inhuman scream filled the air.

“Bitch,” he raged, as he let me go, holding his bloodied arm. I used all my energy to get up. This was it, either I was going to fight back or I was gonna die right here, right now. I decided to play dirty, slamming my fist into his balls. After all I had perfected that skill with Baran. He fell on his knees, whimpering as the disappointed sighs, and vile curses of the bettors filled the room. My heel crunched solid on his jaw, and I was surprised to see that the force threw him backward. I immediately countered with a hard right to his face before I lost my advantage. Now his face looked as bad as mine, which gave me some solace. Before I could do more damage, he was already up, his glaring eyes spitting venom.

“I’ll kill you bitch,” he said, spitting blood.

I crouched low on my knees, concentrating on his moves. He faked a jab with his left hand and leaned in with his right, which I managed to block by my forearm. I noticed that he had the habit of bouncing successively on the balls of his feet like a boxer, and then took a step forward just before he started swinging. He also favored his right where most of his punches were coming from. I waited for him to make his move, and when I saw the signs for his impending attack, I acted as I if took the bait, then ducked to the left at the last minute, letting his right punch swish through empty air, the momentum of which made him lose his balance. Then I swung my arm which connected with his gut. As he bent into two, I kicked his back left knee which was followed with his back right one, and he fell on his knees.

I reached with my right arm, putting it over his shoulder, and then bent it firmly around his neck. Clasping both hands together, I exerted pressure on his carotid arteries. I seemed to know what I was doing, although I had no memory of knowing such a move. With the adrenaline pumping in my body, I drew him closer by drawing the right arm in despite his struggle to break free. I could hear him choking, but I kept the pressure, taking strength from my biceps and forearms. He managed to get up on shaky knees, and tried to shake me off his back. My legs wrapped around his waist tightly, my arm closed in some more. There was a complete silence in the room, except for Jack’s desperate attempts to breathe.

“I am the victor. Do you accept it?” I asked.

He nodded, though he was struggling with the need to stay alive.

“I forfeit my right to kill you. I will not kill you, asshole, though God knows you deserve to die,” I said relaxing my arms, finally allowing him to cough and breathe.

The surprise on bettors’ faces was obvious. Travis was the only one who was now grinning.

Then the people started booing the lack of a death scene.

“Well, this is it, and no one has won the bet,” Ozy announced. “Now, scatter away!” he shouted.

Now that the fight was over, and I felt the last traces of adrenaline leave my body, my whole body was racked with pain, in fact I could hardly feel my face. Breathing was difficult, my breastbone and ribs felt as if they were broken. They were at the very least cracked as any movement was now extremely difficult. Travis put one arm around me as he helped me walk to the corner of the room where Seth’s body lay, still immobile.

I curled my body next to Seth, all my limbs felt heavy, the reality of what I’d done and what had almost happened to me, finally sinking in. I felt extremely tired, and I closed my eyes desperately seeking sleep to overcome the pain, and simply to erase this memory.

“Don’t worry, I’ll watch over you, I heard Travis say.

“Thanks,” I murmured and that was my last coherent thought.

In what seemed like hours, I woke up to the feel of soft kisses on my face. “I will kill him,” Seth was saying as he planted soft kisses on my face. I could feel the exhilarating brush of his tongue on my cheekbone, on my jaw, on my chin.

“Ssh, just allow me,” he said as he continued his tender ministrations. I wanted him to kiss my lips, but he seemed intent to do anything but that. Stubborn to get what I wanted, I turned my face to meet his lips, but he shifted his kisses back to my jaw and then let his lips wander to the slight bruise on my neck.

“Stay still,” he said impatiently as he moved down further to my chest, his fingers rolling down the shirt.

He really wasn’t acting like a man in a lust fueled state, he sounded quite composed, and emotionless despite his lips doing wonders to my libido. He lifted up my shirt, and I saw his head descend towards my ribs, the heat of his lips searing my skin. I was breathless with the anticipation of it all. My fingers tangled over his curly hair, pressing his head, wanting, and desiring him to do more, much more.

“Where else are you aching?” he asked, finally lifting his head.

“Huh?” I said, out of breath, not even understanding the question. I tried to push his head back to my breastbone, trying to bring back the touch of his magical lips, but he wouldn’t budge.

“Where else, Sierra?” he asked, calmly again.

It was then I noticed that I was no longer aching all over. I touched my face, the swelling was gone, the blood was gone, the bruises were gone. My chest and ribs no longer hurt. I was completely and utterly pain free.

“How?” I asked.

“Just let it go,” he said, standing.

What? Was healing like this an idiosyncrasy of this world?

Damn, he was leaving, disappointment had replaced the cuts and bruises, but it was just as painful. I inhaled deeply to calm my still pounding heart.

I looked around, the room was empty except for the two of us. I didn’t know how much time had passed since I’d closed my eyes, or since Seth had become conscious, but the others must have let us be. Even Travis was gone.

“What happened?” he asked, his tone chilling.

“They injected you with something,” I explained. “And, then I fought the guy.”

“And you won,” he said, smiling. “Tell me he’s still not breathing,” he said, narrowing his eyes.

“I couldn’t....” I stammered.

“Of course, you couldn’t,” he said, plastering another soft smile on his face. “Don’t worry over it, where is...” he started asking, but his voice was interrupted with Ozy’s.

“There you are, I’m glad both of you are finally awake,” said Ozy as he walked towards us with a few of his men.

Seth’s look was lethal as he turned towards Ozy.

“I hope we are cool?” he asked. “She looks fine,” he said, surprised at how fast I’d bounced back from my bruises.

I kept my silence. He was scared to pursue that line of thought.

“Baran’s girl is living, for which I’m mightily glad. Her brother is alive. You are finally awake. All is well as before, right?” he said to Seth. “And, where would we be if there were no rules? Rules are rules, man,” he added.

Seth walked slowly towards Ozy, and suddenly lifted him by the collar, in a move so fast, so unexpected that nobody could even intervene.

“Indeed we are, man. And, now I’ll resort to those cherished rules of yours for the right to kill you,” he said.

“What?” croaked Ozy.

“Oh, do you have a problem in understanding me? Let me break it down for you then. You almost had her killed, and you thought all would be fine afterwards?” he bellowed. “I’m challenging you, after all, it’s my right!” Seth raged.

“But, you can’t. I’m their leader,” Ozy said, confused.

“So? Rules are rules,” Seth reiterated.

The room was slowly filling in, the news of Ozy being challenged already spreading in the facility like a blaze.

Fear slowly gripped Ozy as he looked around, his small eyes roaming over his men. “Where is Big Willie?”

“Here,” said a hulking man with an extremely tall frame, bulging arms and biceps as he parted the slowly gathering crowd and slid right in next to Ozy.

“I want you to fight for me,” Ozy said, in a confident tone.

“Sure,” said the man without any objections.

“Coward,” Seth spat.

Ozy shrugged, not even bothering to answer back.

“You could have lived, you brought this on yourself,” Ozy said.

The man took off his shirt, displaying his humongous torso, he beat his chest a few times just like a damn gorilla. Seth walked calmly towards the center of the room to face him.

Big Willie moved his feet a few times as if dancing, and then he swung his fist when he was within a hitting distance. Seth dodged the attack easily and grabbed that huge man by his neck, slowly lifting him up in the air, as if cherishing the move, and then he snapped his neck with his other hand, in one move. The fight was over before it had even begun, in one move, in one second, ending in one decisive outcome.

The shock on everyone’s face said it all. But, Ozy’s face was the most telling as shock, fear, disbelief flashed across his face, as if in a race.

What had happened? No one knew. How could Seth have brought down a man that huge, as if he was merely a fly, an insect to be crushed? That was the question in everybody’s mind.

Ozy took a step back, turned around and left with hurried steps.

“Hail the leader,” somebody shouted.

“Hail our new leader,” others joined in, their voices rising.

“Shit, ” I heard Seth say. “Shit, what the hell have I done?”

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