Sledge: Part 1 – The Pits

In a city full of darkness, there isn’t a place any darker than The Pits. The goggles I wear cast everything in a green light, but without them I wouldn’t be able to see a

In a city full of darkness, there isn’t a place any darker than The Pits. The goggles I wear cast everything in a green light, but without them I wouldn’t be able to see a foot in front of me. The glee of the crowd drowns out the struggles of the human fighter in the cage. Blood stench and thick narcotic smoke mingle over the room like the miasma outside the city.

I stand in the corner waiting for the fight in front of me to finish up. The man inside of the enclosure is bleeding from six different places, the blood glowing bright through the green tint of my goggles. His opponent, some Darkfolk I’ve never seen before, stands before him unharmed. Her scythe tail is poised and ready over her back, and her cloven hooves dance around the poor shmuck who owed Mighty Micky money.

The brawl has only been going on for a few seconds.

The man, Slick Rick, or whatever ridiculous name the announcer had said, charges forward in clumsy desperation. The tail slashes once more, and warm, wet neon flashes against my goggles. The crowd cheers, and after I wipe the hot blood from my goggles, I see Slick Rick has become Headless Rick.

I let the cries of joy fuel my adrenaline as I take my spot for the next bout. The euphoric cheers for more blood make my heart dance, and I pound my taped fists against my chest. I do this partly to get ready for the pain that’s going to follow and partly because old habits die hard.

Taking in deep breaths, I steady my breathing for as long as I can. The Pits were once a human-owned establishment, like all the aboveground dwellings before the lights went out in Apollopolis. Or Apocalypse, as its now more commonly called. Looking at the spectators, even after five years, it’s still something of a shock to see human and Darkfolk mingling side-by-side. The make-believe monsters that we thought had lived in our imagination had turned out to live underground, reclaiming the surface after our make-believe gods abandoned us. But of course, the worst monsters still didn’t look all that much different from me.

I glance over at the sole raised VIP box above the darkened room. Mighty Micky O’Sullivan looks down at me smiling. The Pits are his domain, the human fighters are debtors who owe Micky coin or blood. Or they’re desperate mopes like me looking to make a big payday. More often than not though, the fights are just a pre-cursor to a dirt nap for humans.

The Pits were just the tip of the criminal iceberg that Micky had inherited from his father. Although, criminality isn’t so easily defined without the presence of law enforcement. The Mighty part of his name had come a couple years ago after Little Micky had taken his father’s throne. There wasn’t much in his stature to suggest that there was anything actually mighty about Micky. His short height, messy hair, and stray bits of acne on his chin and cheeks did little to inspire fear. The apple had fallen a few miles away from the sturdy oak that was the O’Sullivan lineage. But Micky had proven time and time again, you didn’t need physical strength to get what you wanted. Not when you had money and cruelty to dispense.

We stare at each other for a few moments longer. The gears in my mind turn while I try to think what he’s got cooked up for me. Me and “Pricky” Micky have never gotten along. The cleaning crew cut our staring contest short with mops and buckets, the blooded stains glow against my goggles. With a crowd this busy tonight, the mess only adds to the spectacle as the announcer returns to the center of the ring while the prior victor leaves.

“And in this corner, the challenger, from legends of brighter days. You knew him as the scourge that walked the streets of Dusk Valley, the enforcer from which nobody, be they dusker, noble, or even a Son of the Storm was safe. Give it up ladies and gents, for Ferocious Francis Sledge!”I frown. Micky wanted people to know my full name. Never mind the fact that nobody with a full set of teeth has called me Francis since I was ten years old. Micky’s beaming from his balcony as I step forward, but a few whispers circulate amongst the applause. The old moniker that Micky’s dad gave me starts to drift to my ears.

“That’s the Sledgehammer?”

“I thought he retired.”

“I thought he was dead.”

The whispers pick up in crescendo, some of the humans explaining in excited detail to their new Darkfold companions who I am. Or who I was, I guess. Some of the tones ring with disbelief. I was as much a legend as the Darkfolk to some of the younger folk because I had given up working for Micky’s old man nearly fifteen years back. My height might measure up to the legends. I even managed to hold on to most of the muscle that had made me a force to be reckoned with for twenty years in Old Man O’Sullivan’s employ.

The years though, especially the last five, hadn’t exactly been kind to me. I don’t stand as straight as I used to, and some of my middle-aged body had given way to flab and wrinkles. Tough old bastard that I might be, I don’t look much different from the poor desperate mopes that the Pits chew up and spit out every night.

“And in this corner,” the announcer continued, voice carrying easily over the excited whispers. “An undefeated champion of over three dozen pit fights! The very best, and the very worst, that the Apocalypse has to offer, unbeatable, unstoppable, Osso the Unbreakable!”

The current of whispers brought on by my announcement are washed away by a torrential applause of bloody murder. The door opens opposite me, but it’s too far away for my goggles to pick up my opponent in the darkness. As the cheers grow louder, my opponent finally materializes in my sights. He’s nearly seven feet tall, but lankier than me, and he’s human looking, compared to most Darkfolk, but his body is covered in several inches of thick skeletal armor. His hands wave up and down on both sides, pleading with the crowd to yell louder. The tips of his bone-covered fingers have been sharpened into knife-sharp claws.

A fucking skullslasher.

I glance up to the balcony and to Micky’s smirk.

Guess the little prick still doesn’t like me.

To Be Continued….

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