Work. Work was the key to not being beaten. When I wasn't in the cage, I scrubbed stains, did laundry, or something to keep out of the way. It was also the time I could try to force myself to remember what happened to my memory. I knew I had a name that people called me but I couldn't recall it even though it could give me a hint of my past. Instead of hints of my past scenes of fights with guys I might've known flashed across my mind's eye. Sometimes it was in the dome room where I tried to survive or on the street somewhere else entirely but they only lasted a few seconds not enough to help me remember anything. I was useless.
"You'll be in the arena tonight," My friend called in when he arrived again hanging up his coat.
"But why? You told me I won last time, why would I have to compete again?" I cringed praying he was in a good mood unlike the last time I asked this question.
"Yes you won last time but it doesn't only take once to be the best. There will be harder things to survive the more you win." My friend faced me when I whimpered at the thought, "Don't worry my dear, I have never let anything hurt you. What good would that do?"
"Thank you sir," I croaked relieved but the lingering threat of what happened to those ungrateful lingered in the air.
It was much later into the night when my friend and I walked across town to the dome arena of the fights. Looking out barred window in the hall right before participants and the audience separated, I could see there was already blood staining the dirt.
"You're up, don't disappoint," he spoke into my ear then shoved me down the hall with cane hand. Thankfully I stumbled to a halt instead of falling and getting hurt before my match even started.
"ALRIGHT LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, UP NEXT IS A GIRL YOU'VE SEEN IN ACTION BEFORE AND TWO NEW BLOODS IN THE ARENA TONIGHT!!" The announcer exclaimed getting the audience riled up. "RELEASE THEM!!"
The competitor door raised just enough for me to roll under into the arena to meet the roaring crowd and my team. The cheers filled my hearing while my body picked up the thrill of what was to happen next. This was where I was alive!! Where I truly felt like I lived!! It was all survival against the best so only the strong lived. Survival was a game here; if you didn't play it just right it cost you dearly.
I screamed back at the crowd, jumping once to get them even more pumped up. Here my name didn't matter or the fact I didn't know it or anything else. The only thing that did was I lived long enough for the ending buzzer to go off until the next the match I was in. A thought popped into my head dimming my mood for a second.
If I died here I would be forever nameless. It wouldn't matter if I fought or if I was the best, I had no name for others to remember me by. I would be nameless without a memory.
The door rose to let me outside without having to duck under it. Bright lights hit my eyes and deafening noise clouded my hearing. When my eyes finally adjusted to the lightening I was gawking at the crowd around me. Hundreds maybe even more than that were in the stands throwing stuff down or cheering, anxious for something to happen, but no matter how many people I spotted the man I representing tonight without any trouble. He sat in a chair with others surrounding him with a drink in his hand. Dipping his head into a solemn nod of acknowledgement to me, he smirked.
"PROSERPINA!!!" Someone shouted across the arena cutting through the cheering like a knife slicing through butter.
"BEGIN!!" Someone else commanded into a microphone when other sets of doors began to rise.
The beasts were released and the match began! Both my teammates were boys and like the announcer said were new to the game. One screamed at just as a bear from one of my past rounds came bounding out along with a rhino released from another door.
I broke out into a sprint dodging the bear and avoiding being the rhino's target too. I ran circles around the bear that seemed to recognize me because it slashed and swiped at me furiously. The boys nearby were constantly trying to get away from the rhino or tackling each other out of the way making me chuckle as I heard them bark orders at each other.
"MOVE!!" The red haired one yelled but he already tackled the other boy.
I was about to return my attention back to the bear but I could the rhino changing tactics that the boys hadn't caught onto yet. Already have made my decision my body followed the curve of the wall as a guide heading to the rhino.
My movements were getting more tired but I needed to keep moving with Kaden. The rhino stomped and stamped towards us nearly crushing a limp or killing us out right without ever slowing down. Kaden and I were hassling to our feet when the rhino was turning around for another go that was probably going to be the last for both of us.
Then Proserpina came running to the point of flying and latching onto the animal's horn. Digging her heels into the ground, pulling its head the other way Proserpina was being dragged and making the rhino turn away from us.
"Yeah!! Go!!" I laughed, relieved for her presence guarding our backs.
Proserpina tumbled back when she released the rhino then immediately rolling to the side to escape its deadly feet. She didn't waste a second to make a dash straight for us.
"PAY ATTENTION!! MOVE!!" Kaden and I crashed back onto our back with Proserpina holding us down then hopping up when the bear barreled past us.
"Thanks Proserpina!!" I bent over panting now that we were safe for a moment.
"Do I know you?" Her brow furrowed in puzzlement.
Thia and I returned last night from our rescue mission, one man short. At separate times we met up with Uncle individually and came back sore and bruised. Even though he talked to us yesterday when we returned, we had to meet with him today too. Thia met with him this morning so now I was climbing the stairs to his apartment.
"You wanted to see me again sir?" I asked slipping into the room quietly.
"Where is my nephew?" His voice was gruff and demanding.
"I believe he is in nearby town."
"You believe? You know something that I want to know. You know where my nephew is because you left town."
"Sir, I didn't leave town for your nephew."
"Then why did you go?!!" Uncle raised his voice.
"We were looking for Proserpina, she disappeared awhile ago. We were hoping she was in the town nearby."
"I see you're aware of her absence but where is the other boy with you? Nathan is it?"
"Nathan was searching the streets on his own the night before we left and didn't come back. Sir we only meant to bring Proserpina back before she was in danger. We didn't realize your nephew had disappeared as well or that something might happen to one of us. I'll get more information for you," I backed out of the room faster than I had entered eying his clenched fist turn white.
"Carl!! Proserpina still hasn't made an appearance. Where is she?!" I demanded more than frustrated. This wasn't supposed to happen but who would believe me other than Carl. Kaden is gone but the others are starting to get worried about the decreasing numbers of our ranks.
"I don't know Astera; I told you some guy got to her before I could even speak with the girl. Besides why do you care? You're the one who led her to the town and didn't stay long enough to make sure things turned out the way they were supposed. Maybe if you weren't a coward then she wouldn't be with the wrong people."
"I don't want to hear it Carl. Do you understand this has nothing to do if I should've stayed or not. This is your fault you didn't talk to her or do your job!!" I accused him but I couldn't deny I wondered if it would've turned out differently if I stayed a bit longer. He could've been right about staying but Carl should've done his job like he had done in the past whether I stayed or not, still I knew it was my fault for taking her in the first place.
"Just fix this. Find her," I left his apartment making my way back to the house.
"Carl wasn't the man who found her," Thia approached. I was curled up on an olive green chair reading a book that ironically was about the value of friendship.
"No he wasn't," I admitted closing the book.
"And it's not the same people you sent me to, was it?"
"No that group moved out of town to a place with more of a population. Someone else talked to her instead of Carl."
"You haven't found her yet have you?" Thia kneeled by the chair her eyes looking urgent even with the bruises covering her skin.
"What is it to you? You blackmailed me into doing this."
"Astera did you really think I wished the same kind of pain I went through on her? I didn't, I only wish that on you. I wanted to let you know I saw Proserpina a day ago and she is in really bad shape."
"How bad?" My back straightened dropping my feet to the floor.
"Her memory is gone."
"Gone? What do you mean? Memories don't just disappear like someone's wallet or car keys to a thief."
"She doesn't remember anything not me, you or anyone or anything that had happened. She believes her parents abandoned her in that town when she was little and never came back." Despair and shock cooled my body until it was numb with the feeling. Questions whirled around in my head.
How will I get her back now? She doesn't know me or anyone!! What will happen when she comes back? Will she remember what I did or will it all be gone from her mind forever? Do I want her to remember? Could I really start over with her like I never did such a cruel thing to her? Would it be so bad for the both of us if she didn't remember? It would just mean everyone would have to start over with her would that really be so bad?
I came up gasping for air but only for a split second before he shoved my head back under. My lungs burned when I opened my mouth under the water to scream or beg for him to stop. Over and over again he shoved my head under water only stopping to curse me for disappointing him in the arena.
"Do you know how much I spent on you?!! For you to blow it all away for what? To save one of them from the facing death!! You should be sorry for what you did. Everyone faces death in that arena from the moment they walk out to meet what's behind the other doors!!"
"I'm sorry sir," I sputtered out water when he finally stepped away from me and the water. He twisted back towards me a horrifying vision beamed in his eyes.
"Good remember that," I began to ease back onto my feet when he fixed his tie and straightening out his outfit. My worries were slowly fading as he continued to clean up his suit then his cane cracked against my skull.
I sat in the stadium with the man whom I represented. My match didn't end that long ago but Proserpina and Nathan were already gone. A storm of my emotions filled my head while I went over everything that happened. I knew Proserpina wasn't going to be completely healthy but I assumed she would keep her memory.
"You did well kid," the man stated. "You had a few close ones though good thing that girl got in the way or you wouldn't be here. Tomorrow the girl will be in the match again and I want you to watch it with me."
"When will my service be over?" I croaked wishing to return to Uncle.
"You will leave after your next match but only if I'm satisfied with your performance."
"Why then? Why was I even brought here for such a short amount of time?"
"Kid you were caught at the wrong place at the wrong time and I have been in this business for a long time. I don't need to participate in this but I have a name to uphold. I only do this every two months."
"Do you mean I am to fight again in two months?" I asked confused on what he meant.
"No kid. You will be fighting in the next two or three days."
"Then I get to leave?"
"Yes then you get to leave and live your life. Now come on we got to get some rest so we can watch the next match tomorrow." He got up only padding me on the back to follow him so I did grateful I didn't end up with someone worst than him.