I awoke back in my cage aching and dried up tears on my face. Puzzled, I crawled out analyzing my arms that were cover in green, yellow, and purple bruises that seemed to multiply the more I looked at them.
"Oh good you're awake, how do you feel?" My friend had asked when he noticed me. He was standing with most of his back to me while he did something.
"Good sir but could you tell me what happened yesterday?"
"Well of course you were walking the streets last night when I found you all beaten and disgusting looking really. I brought you back home and let you sleep. I made soup for you, it's on the table." He extended his hand to point to the worn out table in the corner.
"Thank you for the soup sir. I am very sorry that you had found me that way and that I was out so late. I should've been home earlier," I raised the spoon full of broth to my mouth while I realized something in my mind sent waves of warning. Looking at him, I felt the urge to attack while my mind seemed to scream at me that he was lying.
"Yes, yes your welcome but don't let it happen again," He waved my words off.
"You wouldn't lie to me, would you sir?" I sipped in another mouthful of broth, watching the muscles in his back for a sign.
"And what would make you ask such an accusing question?"
"I had only asked because I would hope we are true friends that tell each other truths, not spit lies."
"That is right; we tell each other truths not spit lies. Besides why would I lie to my closest friends when we talk so often?"
"I would not know why but I'm glad we are truly friends," I replied one last time while I continued eating my soup.
"Don't forget you have another match today."
"I do? I thought I just had one yesterday," I finished off my soup and straightened up.
"Yeah you did but you're in the big leagues now. Today you'll be alone in the arena against one of the most feared animals in a tougher environment. They're going to fill the arena with water so you're going to have to hold your breath for awhile. You'll be fighting a crocodile today so be prepared."
"Will this have an ending mark too?" was all I could squeak out.
"Yes that is where the fight is normal. You go until the buzzer goes off or one of you dies. I'm sure you'll be fine but if not then I'll forgive you, eventually when the talk of your defeat dies down." My friend took a seat beside me, an encouraging smile plastered firmly on his face like it was indeed permanent. "You best get ready, we wouldn't want to be late."
"No we wouldn't," Timidly, shaking I strolled to the next room to do what he had asked.
We had just taken our seats in the front row where I spotted the man with now only a day ago. The crowd was just filing in with their refreshments mostly alcohol and food from the stands behind us. None of them seemed fazed of what we could be watching but instead they were betting.
"A hundred on the crock!" One man slammed his money down on the bar jugging his beer.
"I say fifty on the girl!" Another paid the money to the bartender.
"Sir what are they doing?" I asked staring at the workers, watching a dozen running hoses spray water into the arena.
"They're filling the arena with water for the event." He continued to explain when he saw I was still confused. "You see this is a different kind of event; it is a public punishment. The competitor's sponsor was unhappy with how she preformed yesterday and requested an extra event for his competitor to make up for it."
"What did she do wrong?" I asked.
"She kept you and the other boy in the arena from getting injured by that rhino. See here boy, spilling blood pleases these people as long as they don't have to do it and they're drunk. Here if there is no blood there is nothing to watch."
"So her sponsor is going to publicly humiliate her?"
"Yes in a way but it is more of like a public execution. You can tell because the odds are against her. They're going to fill the arena half up and she is going to have fight something equipped for the water."
"She's going to die," I stated not as a question but he nodded nonetheless. "If I ran would you come after me?"
"Haha! Kid I don't need to, I can get another competitor for my remaining rounds. Many prefer to compete for me since I'm not as strict as the others. Except I would have to advise you not to run, they send people after you that don't care if they kill ya or not."
"Noted," I replied absent mindedly as I spotted Nathan sitting next to a middle aged woman whom looked dressed as a friendly grandmother. "I'll be right back."
"Don't disappoint," My friend stood behind me before the competitor's door. I had a single knife strapped to my thigh right where my shorts ended. He had said I should dress lightly, in free moving clothing so I was dressed in an orange tank top and jean shorts.
"Oh I almost forgot; do you swim?" He asked an apologetic smile on his lips.
"Uh...I don't remember if I can."
"Well I guess we'll find out real soon won't we? Alright I should get to my seat so take my advice and take a deep breath before those doors open." Still not needing the cane he carried he swaggered a way with a bounce in his step.
There was a creak signaling the doors were trying to open. I began hopping from each foot trying to warm up my muscles, when the door revealed the arena. Water slammed into my chest, throwing me into the hallway wall then like a vacuum sucked me into the water filled arena. The crowd's cheering was muffled by the water in my ears then became clearer once I broke the surface to catch my breath.
"Look out!!" Someone screamed chuckling, while he spilled beer on himself and others around him. Then something flashed on in the corner of my eye. Whirling around I squinted trying to see into the depths of the water. Wanting to locate it first I continued to look, though it found me first.
Multiple razor teeth came down on my calf and I was being dragged under the surface. Around me, my blood floated up like dust in the air in the dark blue environment. Suddenly everything was twisted and turning on me as the crocodile spun in on itself trying to delay me from fighting back.
Ripping my knife from the holster on my thigh I bent towards the crock hanging onto my leg and swung down with the blade. It flashed brightly in the water from the light at the surface as it was deflected off the animal's top layer of tough skin like body armor. My lungs burning for air I bashed it's snout the side with my fist. It's teeth cut deeper before letting go as it swam off.
Breaking the surface again, I followed the dark form of its body stalking me beneath. My wounded leg was a wildfire as water filled the holes and my fist bled from hitting its tough skin. The crock swam in circles around me, eying me in turn probably identifying the best way to take me out. This time taking a deep breath I dove into the water heading for the animal itself.
It's long mouth snapped at my forearms as I swiped with my blade at its eyed. Charging me from the short distance between us, it swam fast but I caught it with my left fist cutting my fist open again on its rough skin. I was bleeding more than it was but I felt proud I was lasting longer than I had anticipated.
"You've got to be kidding me! Why can't people just be freaking friendly not sick, drunk ass hats!!?" I whined shaking Kaden's arm as we watched the event begin. "Why can't we just all be friends who are nice?"
"That's like asking to live in candy land with unicorns and rainbows," Kaden replied barely listening to a word I said.
"You and your friend pipe down okay?" The old woman I competed for bopped me on the head with her hand. Her eyes also trained on the fight below.
"I hate this world and everything in it. This is so unfair!" I screamed when blood seeping from her leg came to the surface of the water before her. "She doesn't have a memory and now she won't be able to run with me and John anymore."
"Are you done complaining? There are more important things to worry about like her being wounded!"
"Nah, it's just her time of the month, mother nature calls when she calls."
"Are you kidding me right now? That cannot explain that much blood!!" Kaden was growing red as he got ever more irritated with me.
"I can't explain everything but it could be a heavy bleed this month. Oh don't tell me it is your time too?"
"You're acting like a child instead of trying to come up with a plan!" Kaden scowled at me.
"Kaden does it look like we can get to her?!! Besides John was the one making plans, I was the one who wrecked them on the way. Why do you even care anyways?" I pouted with my arms folded on my chest.
"I...don't," Kaden took too long to answer making me stare at him wide eyed.
"Haha!! She caught your attention!! Haha!! Oh I have to tell her this; she'll get a kick out of it!"
"Nathan!! What is your purpose because it's not helping!!"
"Learn to laugh a little more, maybe it'll make you prettier. By the way I have a plan I'm just bidding my time until that clock hits a minute." I said nodding to the buzzer on the wall, earning a confused looked from Kaden but I couldn't stop laughing enough to explain.
"Let's hope she survives long enough for it to hit a minute."
"Okay now I hate you. You're such a downer, don't worry our girl will survive. She put up with you all this time, nothing can top that." I watched more intently scanning the water for her but blood was making the water murkier.
"Argh!" I shouted in the water though it came out garbled, adding to my frustration.
The crocodile had a hold of my forearm and was jerking it this way and that, cutting ever deeper making me drop the knife. Using my other hand I gripped its upper jaw doing my best to pry it open enough for my arm to wiggle free. Eventually I got it to budge a little then ripped my arm out of the mouth's grasp.
My knife lay yards away at the bottom of the room full of water. Cursing in my head I swam towards it with my hand stretched out for it. Getting close, desperation gathered in my body as I kept a look out for the crock but couldn't spot it from my position.
A flash of the crock's tail caught my attention, stopping my progress for a second. Another flash of it's body swimming nearby got me to swim faster and grasp my knife in my hand for dear life. A snap came and echoed around me, the water helping it travel to my ears then I was swimming. A third flash this time of its teeth coming for me. Fright set into my mind as the flashes came closer and closer no matter how far I swam until I had to face it again.
"Would you hold this?" Nathan shoved a slab of bloody animal meat into my arms.
The clock for the buzzer was at three minutes when Nathan dragged me away from the scene. Now the clock was counting down at two minutes and Nathan did not pay no mind but strolled through the place like he was the boss.
"What the hell are we doing?" I said cringing away from the slab of meat that reeked.
"We are going for a BBQ outside. Kaden what do you think we're doing? We're setting up for the plan. What does the clock say now?"
"Fifteen seconds to a minute."
"Good, good." Nathan led me down a ramp lower into the building and away from the crowd, "Keep track of the time would ya?"
We walked for a while in the silence that I didn't try to break as Nathan searched for something in the hall. The slab of meat's blood was dripping down my arms and staining my clothes. The stink of it stung my nose and flies found their way around my head.
"Ah here we are!" Nathan came to a stop in front of a crack door that had some water dampening the floor beneath our feet. "Put that down for a second and undress to your underwear." Nathan ordered pulling his own shirt off.
"Why?" I demanded putting the meat down.
"Well are you going to swim in jeans and a baggy shirt?" He said hiding his clothes in a dark corner nearby just in case anyone came by. "Don't tell me your period makes you bitchy and shy? That's a weird combination."
"Are you done because I'm ready?" I said hiding my clothes then picking up the meat again.
"After you," Nathan lifted the door a bit for me to crawl through after the meat. Done grumbling I crawled through into the water holding my breath and grabbing a hold of the slab of meat again.
Nathan came through after me motioning me to follow him with his arm. He swam towards where ripples and waves of water were coming from. We stayed away from the surface so not to expose that we were even here in the water. When we were close enough I swam to put the slab of meat on the ground and slid it farther. I led the way around the area to get away from the crock's line of sight when he noticed the scent of the meat in the water.
Once he went for the meat, we kicked off towards Proserpina scanning the water for it to attack her again. Spotting us instead she swiped her knife at Nathan's chest but stopped when Nathan tapped his wrist saying her time was up. Accepting this she followed us, still bleeding, to the crack door and into the hallway where we were panting breathless.
"Yeah!! We did it!!" Nathan clapped my shoulder with his hand making me jerk forward each time he did.
"Stop that!" I commanded moving away from him to grab my clothes.
"Wait you're the boys from my last match!" Proserpina exclaimed reminding me further she was there and I was in my underwear.
"Yep! I'm glad I make a lasting impression. Nathan I am," he stuck out his hand still in his underwear.
"Sorry I don't know my name."
"That's okay because I knew you before you lost your memory!"
"Really?" She cocked her head to the side curious and suspicious.
Curiosity getting the best of me, I followed the strange boys. The red haired one named Nathan was telling me about my life with him and his friend John. I sounded like a fun person to be around and reckless in fights though it explains some things.
"Yeah your favorite thing to do with us was running and we were pretty fast." Nathan went on casually not seeming the least bit unnerved when I said I couldn't remember anything.
"Well I don't think I'll be running anywhere for awhile," I gestured to my bleeding leg. I had wrapped it in some straps of my shirt but it was bleeding through.
"Nah you'll be able to run soon enough. You were shot in the other leg sometime ago."
"Really? Who shot me?"
"Funny you should ask," Nathan grinned evilly.
"Are you serious right now? Nathan we need to get to the others. Where we are safe!"
"It was that guy, Kaden. Not to mention other things he did to you."
"Seriously man!! Can you just not make her hate me until we get there?" Kaden turned to scowl at him.
"Why would you shoot me?" I blurted out, "I mean why save me now if you hated me so much?"
"We'll talk about that when we get back," Kaden's glared darkened on Nathan while his grin seemed to glow brighter.
"It's his time of the month."
Kaden and Nathan came through the door with Proserpina between them making everyone but me stand to meet them. Kaden's family wasn't around so people swarmed them giving hugs and coming back confused how Proserpina didn't know them.
"Thia!" Kaden appeared at the arm of the chair I lounged in, reading a magazine. "Proserpina doesn't remember anything! Not a person from her past."
"I know," I replied flipping the page.
"You know? Since when?"
"Since Nathan got himself stuck in whatever hole he fell in. I know because I found her with some guy. He beats her and probably doesn't hold back with that cane of his."
"Come on we need to take her to the doctor."
"And I'm guessing by 'we', you mean I take her. Why Kaden?"
"Please Thia. Nathan and I need to report to Uncle and I need to have a talk with Astera."
"I'll take her but you better knock some sense into Astera." I stalked over to Proserpina, wanting to get this over with. I wasn't sure I could handle her not having her memory.
"She has multiple fractures along her forearms perhaps from blocking hard hits. She also seems to have amnesia from some hits to her skull, disturbing her brain activity." The doctor was explaining to me the wounds he had found on Proserpina.
"Alright, can it be reversed? Will she be able to remember her past?" I crossed my arms over my chest, peering at her from the hallway window.
"Yes, you'll need to try to find something to trigger her memory. Though she may not want to remember. The bites on her are from a crocodile do you know anything that could've led to this?"
"No sir, we just found her like this."
"We patched her up so you may take her home with you." The doctor turned on his heel and left.
"Hey, we can head home now." I entered the room, leaning on the door frame examining her sitting on the hospital bed in the gown they gave her.
"I know you; you're that girl that tried to get me to leave him!" Proserpina pointed her finger at me angrily.
"Yeah I am but that doesn't matter anymore you're here now."
"He's not a bad man, I heard you talking to Kaden. He never hit me. Ever."
"No he didn't hit you Proserpina! Hit is one time; he beat you! With his god damn cane like you were a peasant at the feet of a god!!" I jerked her hand into her face so she could see all her bruises. "He beat you Proserpina!"
"That's not my name!" She screamed back covering her ear with her hands.
"Then what is your name?"
"I don't know!" Tears were streaming down her face, agony in her eyes of not knowing.
"What is wrong with you? Where did your fight, your spirit go!? You don't even want to face your past! Is this a better way to live life to never remember what happened and always wondering who you are?!"
"I want to know! I wish I knew!"
"No you don't. They didn't save you; they saved a shell of yourself. I hope forgetting the rest of us is worth this reality of ignorance because you're really hurting them for not choosing them. And here I thought you could've been the most selfless person I could know but I guess snakes come in all kinds of disguises. You're sleeping here tonight."
Proserpina curled up into a ball, sobbing on the bed. Shaking my head disappointed and disgusted I left the room. I would never understand how wondering who you are and helpless was better than facing your past.