Chapter VI: How it all fades away
After that moment I started to scream like a madman while squirming and twisting, trying to get out of their grasp. Then A.K. let her fall on the wooden bench like a ragdoll and approached me. He was still holding the knife and I could see the blood dripping from its silver edge, making a trail of red blobs. That sight almost made me barf. He came in front of me – I froze, overwhelmed by the waves of emotion that were rushing at me – and wiped his knife on my shoulder.
“See you next time, Tommy boy! Get this scared freak out of my face!” and one of the guard that was holding my arm hit me in the back of the neck with the butt of his pistol. Everything went blurry then at the second blow: dark.
‘I woke up standing and it was pitch black. The floor was water; it was like I was walking on water. Not too far from where I was standing there was a person sitting on a wooden bench. It had its back turned so I couldn’t see the face but I somehow felt who it is. So I started walking towards the bench but soon I realized that the distance wasn’t getting any shorter, I was actually moving away while moving forward. The person on the bench kept getting small as I started to run towards – away – from it. So I stopped and I looked at my hands. They were covered in fresh, lukewarm blood. Then the person that was sitting somewhere far, far away from me appeared right in front of me. It was Eva. She took my hands and closed her eyes.
“Yes!” she said. “The answer is yes!” and then she disappeared.’
I woke up sweating and panting next to Bill’s concerned face.
“Kid… you have to stop waking up like this, always seeing my ugly mug. And I think you had enough, don’t add more scars… physically or to your soul. I could find you a quiet place here, no more fighting, no more After King.”
“No!” I swiftly shouted and when I tried to get up the room started to shake my head with flying white dots appearing on my retina.
“Whoa there stud! You had some pretty nasty blows to the head so best you just lay down for now. You’re quite a resistant son of a…” he looked down, as if he was feeling sorry for what he wanted to say.
“OK! But I don’t want to quit like this… not, not now! I want to fuh-fuh-fucking kill that ah-asshole. He’s a monster, the meanest, weirdest psychopath I’ve seen in my life and I’ve seen so…”
“I know you’re angry, kiddo, but please, hear me out. You don’t have to do this, it’s a suicide mission, and you cannot do this. An army surrounds him and even if you do get close enough to hurt him, you’ve seen what can happen. He will find a way to win, to hurt you. He’s evil, and evil is hard to defeat, you just have two choices: ignore or obey or, like in my case, a bit of both. He invented these fights and he was champion of many of the first ones. He is truly a psycho… the things I saw him doing out there… he once… pulled the eye out of this young boy… and pushed it down his screaming mouth while laughing maniacally. So please, kid, be wise and stay away.”
I turned over and under the image of what Bill described me, the image of Eva, her blood, his smile, the knife… and let out a powerful sigh.
“I’m sorry Bill… But I have to try this, there’s nothing left for me to do. If I’m not going to do this, or at least try it, I’m not gonna forgive myself. I didn’t know Eva for long but she was the love of my life… and he… the muh… motherfucker…” tears were stopping me from talking.
“I know kid, she loved you too! Here, she wanted you to have this!” he passes me this leather-bound notebook. It was her journal; she was writing, just like me, all the important things in her life. And I was there, highlighted. I thanked Bill for giving me this piece of her and he replied with a soft, warm smile, while lighting up his pipe.
“If you want to continue this, I understand you, I will arrange the fight…”
“But I want to kill the self-proclaimed King! I want vengeance, I want…”
“I know, I know! But if you want to get close to him that’s the only way. So you will fight his recent right hand: Sunny.”
I couldn’t believe it: Sunny was still alive and working for that shit of a man. Or I wanted to think that he just didn’t have any other choice and he liked to fight, picking the wrong side. But that was not important for me, what was important was my quick recovery and the feeling that I’m ready for everything and everyone, especially the After King. Even though the one I would be fighting was one of my only friends, life changes, people change and friendships end, I guess.
Bill came the next day and he told me something that I will always remember.
“It doesn’t matter if you know him, the past is in the past, it has lost its meaning now. All you have to do is to look forward, always. So if you want this you will have to win this fight no matter what. Tomorrow you will start training, slowly so you don’t faint on us and I will be there to take care, like I did with Eva. She loved you a lot and I know she would like me to take care of you. Now rest and we’ll start tomorrow with Isaac.”
Whenever I was thinking of Eva or I was reading her notebook it brought me to the verge of tears. But I replaced those with determination and promises.
The next day I got up feeling determined and full of vengeance and energy.
“Are you ready for the hardest three and a half weeks of your life?” Isaac asked, smiling.
“I seriously doubt they will be the hardest, looking back on my life, but if you’re asking if I’m ready for a good training then the answer is: Fuck yeah!” I smiled back, patting Isaac on the back.
So we started training and, indeed, it was hard but nothing I couldn’t manage. Few days before the fight A.K. came to pay me a visit, keeping his distance, talking to Bill who was probably trying to convince him to leave. And when he saw my face and Isaac holding me back he just smirked and turned away.
Soon enough the night of the fight came and I were shaking, filled with mixed emotions. I was waiting for a miracle, some kind of divine intervention but that never comes. Instead what I got was better than any gods or angels. All my memories with Eva came rushing before my eyes like an avalanche. She flooded my brain with her voice, her face, her smell her laugh. I closed my eyes and tilted my head back; everything else went still and quiet. I could smell her perfume; I could feel her hot breath, her soft skin touching my scars, and her sweet lips whispering ‘I love you!’ And at once everything came back to normal, back in focus. Was that real? I would like to think so ergo that’s what it was. She came back to encourage me, like in that weird dream I had. ‘I love you too, Eva!’ I whispered to myself.
“Come on, you’re next!” Isaac pushed me through the velvet curtains into the warm, bright and blinding spotlights.
At first I could only see blank faces in the front row and the sand that surrounded the arena. But in a few seconds my eyes adjusted to the powerful lights and I could distinguish familiar faces. First it was Sunny. He was changed, not the scrawny, skinny kid he that was taken away in front of me by those men. Now he was a man, looking quite fearless and fearsome. He was looking at me like he didn’t recognize me.
‘Hey, Sunny! It’s me, Tom the scarred boy!” I gave him half of a smile but when I saw no reaction from him I quickly changed my smile into a confused frown.
“Are you ready for the biggest fight of the month, maybe of Mazy Quazy? Given to us by the grace of our… hero… the After King!” Bill’s voice echoed through the speakers. Then a spotlight lit up the asshole somewhere in the third row. Now he was keeping his distance, taking all the precautions since last time. Then I heard his voice, he had a microphone.
“Whoever loses has to die and the winner will have a chance to dine with me. Last fight was quite entertaining so let’s see how this turns out. May the best man win, and we all know that is my boy, Sunny!” the crowd applauded and it all seemed like a cheap show, everything that I’ve went through, from the day I was born… all a big fucking drama full of clichés. That made me even more angry and determined. I wasn’t seeing Sunny anymore; I was seeing the enemy, my goal, the person I had to destroy. So the fight started and at the first clinch Sunny harshly whispered in my ear:
“This… is… for leaving me, you fucking coward!” I didn’t have time to respond, to explain anything because right then he hit me with a left hook that sent me right into the sand doing angels on my back. But I got up and continued the fight.
It was a long and exhausting fight and close to the end we were both full of blood and throwing tired punched and kicks at each other but I still managed to land a right cross that softened his knees and made him fall to the ground like a toy robot running out of batteries. I looked up, traditionally at the A.K. to wait for his decision. He chose death and the whole crowd went silent. Sunny was trying to get up so I went close and grabbed him in a death grip, putting his neck in the gap of my elbow and squeezing. He was trying to escape, squirming like a fish in land, slapping my hand, trying to grab onto something, to make me stop. I think I even hear a ‘Stop, please!’ but I was too concentrated on the future, starring the After King in his dark eyes. I was strangling my best friend and thinking of the love of my life. Eva was in my mind, the moment she died, the frightened look in her eyes as the blade sliced her throat, the way she fell on that bench like she was a puppet. As I felt Sunny slowly leaving this world I whispered:
“I never left you; I actually came back for you and got fucking raped. So I should be the angry one but I forgive and understand. Everybody has a higher purpose, a different meaning in life. Yours was for me to get close to him. Goodbye my friend.” Just before I snapped his neck I felt a sigh of liberation from him. The crowd jumped and started to shout my name with Bill next to me, raising my left hand, shouting into the microphone:
“The new champion… Thomas!” he then looked at me and talked away from the microphone. “You got what you wanted, now be careful. Go wash, rest a bit and the King is waiting for you. You will be escorted when ready to his ‘castle’. Be careful, kiddo.
I went to wash and just then I realized how bad I was looking. Bruises that will be blue-black the next day were now red, my nose was broken and I could barely breath, my left eye was swollen and half closed and I felt like I had every inch of my muscles beaten to be tender. But I was still feeling determined; I still had energy to do what I really wanted to do.
After I got out of the shower three guards were waiting there for me, one of them being the coward ‘patchy’.
“I will get you too!” I told him with my eyes and I think he understood me because just then he took a step back. Bill appeared in front of me all of a sudden.
“Take these kid, they will make you feel much better!” and he opened his palm showing two pink pills. No questions asked, I took them and swallowed them dry.
“You had to take only one but… you will be fine, you’re a tough young man.” He said with a full, wide smile and in that smile I could see all that is good. “Everything means nothing, kiddo!” he added. “Now go be the hero of your own story, maybe of others too! But remember that you can’t hold on to something you don’t want to lose!” he sounded like the voice of an ignored past, so true, so wise, so simple. “So you use all that past, all these scars to your advantage…”
I thanked him for everything as the guards started to lead me to the King’s place and as I was entering the door I felt the effect of the pills kick in. Everything became brighter and colorful and clearer. I was there but also somewhere else, somewhere on top, somewhere ahead.
“Welcome to my humble shelter!” the A.K. said with that disgusting psycho smile. “You fought a good fight… I should’ve known you’re a fighter and those… those are some scars but they sure aren’t no bear cuts. Please, sit down!” he gracefully pointed to the table and chairs not far from us. The guards were still in the room staring with their overprotective looks. I sat down feeling everything and analyzing my surroundings.
“You know…” he started as he pulled a chair and sat across the table. “Our life is composed of things that we want to say but we don’t. Or the other way… in any case the fear of saying or doing something unusual, ugly, grotesque, usually leads to self-disappointment, content, loneliness and eventually death. Death is inevitable; we all face it at one time or another. So I chose not to do that, not to be content or disappointed. I chose habit, because habit always brings out the madness in one. You’re asking yourself: ‘What the fuck is wrong with this guy?’ and that’s good, that’s normal. I will explain in due time.” He made a sign towards one of the guards. “Would you like some wine?”
“Whiskey!” I quickly answered still feeling the world around me growing, touching all my senses.
“I like your attitude… You seem like the whiskey type. Radu, will you please fill us two glasses of our fine whiskey and then fuck off, all of you!” ‘Patchy’ did as told and then it was just the After King and I. “You may not know this but we used to drink and smoke and fuck and gamble with our lives so we wouldn’t see the demons that surround us. And look at all of it now… it seems quite pointless, doesn’t it? That’s what I’m trying to do here. To give people guidance, to give them choices, a goal in life!” he paused, sipping on his whiskey. I took a sip as well and noticed that he was holding something with his other hand, under the table. “Everything fades away; everything disappears or just loses its meaning. I used to be in love, and I did stupid things for it, for her…” he paused again, this time actually looking at me and I saw a change in him. “Those scars on you… Those were because of her, because of your mother… You know you killed her? She was weak and her body chose you instead of her. She unwillingly sacrificed herself for you… So I decided, long after that you have to pay. But you were lucky with this!” and then he showed me what he was holding in the other hand. It was a boomerang. And it said ‘Forever’ on it. It was my boomerang. Now I understood. He was the masked monster that came in the night to hurt my friends and me. Although his intention was to kill just me, circumstance made him fail. Sunny’s gift protected me, us. He was still smiling and he put the boomerang on the table.
“I guess you don’t always get what you want! But I will get you!” I answered and as my last letter left my mouth everything started to move in slow motion – maybe it was the pills – and I felt this calmness taking over me, an overprotective nirvana.
“Yes, you are totally right and I am envious that you’ve reached this level of thinking at such a young age. My philosophy is that you cannot knock a man who’s already down… you… do you think you can defeat me?” right then I felt a wave of energy and I saw Eva by his side saying:
“Yes! Yes you can!”
I grabbed the boomerang and jumped on the After King. I started to hit him in the temple with it until blood was splattering the floor and walls. He didn’t have a chance, I was moving with the speed of light, I was helped by the hands of Eva, by Sunny, by all the people in my life, I was gathering their strength. Now his head was turning into a soft mush. ‘This is easy, why didn’t anyone try this before?’ I asked myself and immediately knew the answer: because nobody had my determination. People are afraid of illusions and he was the illusion of power and fear. I stopped eventually and got up, opening the door. There, lying on the floor in a pool of blood were Bill, Isaac, Radu and all the other bodyguards. Bill did that for me, he trusted me, and Isaac did that for me. For us.
With my head down I left that place while everybody was cheering my name. Everybody was free now.
So here I am, after everything had faded away, after the death of art and civilization, here I am trying to rebuild my life and everyone else’s. So whatever you are, if you’re reading this book or at least this fragment, know this:
‘We are here for you, and we’re building a new beginning. And you can do that as well; I went through all the possible evils so I know what it feels like. Just come here and see, it’s a new beginning.’
We found this manuscript in the tent of Mazy Quazy, in the old town of Inception. That’s where it all started and Tom is our founding father. Without him we wouldn’t be the society we are now. So as a sign of gratitude we decided to publish his words as a book. This is for everyone that believes in second chances, for everyone who believes that after bad comes good.
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