11:10pm, 31st December. The Arena
Max crouched on all fours, looking down to see his own blood drip and splash on the lush, green grass of the arena surface. The stadium crowd and in fact the whole world had disappeared behind a white fog, impenetrable and silent. He knew his wife and children were out there and with him in spirit, but right now, right here, he was alone and that was okay. That was how he needed it to be.
He had just taken a battering and needed to focus. Max wasn’t hurt, not really. If he survived the night, the shallow gash on his forehead would heal quickly enough. Max certainly wasn’t scared either. In fact, he now knew exactly what he had to do to get through this bout. He had wondered for the past six months what it would really be like in the arena. The chaos of the crowd. The atmosphere beneath the lights. Even the feel of the humid night air. All of it he had wondered about, but now Max knew and on top of that, he also knew how to beat this foe.
Looking up, he saw his instrument of victory. The fog receded a little to reveal his sword, skewered into the ground like the Excalibur of legend. The perfectly smithed blade glittered beneath the stadium lights, its perfection belying its lethal capacity to kill. All Max had to do now was rise to his feet, walk the handful of metres towards it and take hold of the hilt. With the blade in his hand, he would have victory secured.
Max knew that his foe was bearing down on him from behind, mistakenly sensing that he was wounded and vulnerable. Without rushing, almost casually, Max straightened and rose firmly to his feet. Pausing slightly, he then stepped forwards and in a few paces reached his destination. He looked down at the weapon and paused again. His mind imagined him reaching down and grasping the leather strapped grip. Then Max imagined pulling it effortlessly clear of the turf and twisting it to hold it upright in front of his face, his second hand coming up to rest on the hilt directly beneath his other. Mentally, Max could feel the surprising lightness of the weapon. He could also see the keen, double edge with twin glimmers of light rippling along them. Max could even feel the weight of the humidity infused air, the hair on his arms and legs cloyed with the slight bead of sweat. He was ready.
Reaching down with his right hand, Max repeated his imagined scene in real life. A moment later he was standing with the sword in front of his face, his gaze watching the light play down the blade edges. His foe was almost upon him. The sound of the crowd started to diffuse back through the steadily thinning fog. The world was coming back to him, or perhaps he was coming back to the world.
Looking up into the crowd, the fog receded further to show a section of the stadium, a private viewing booth, mid way up the stand. Its floor to ceiling glass framed three figures huddled together, looking down on him like an angel and two cherubs. His wife and their two beautiful children. There they were. Every reason in the world he needed to live was standing there looking over him. Now Max was really ready.
Behind him, Max’s foe was launching into the air, preparing to strike him down. His fingers gripped the hilt of his sword even tighter. The noise of the crowd roared back into his senses and the green grass of the arena sprang back into clarity. Stepping lightly, but firmly back onto the ball of his left foot, Max spun, sword slicing the air. It was time to fight. It was time to live.