Catch up on the last installments in this series here. The skullslasher charges at me, choregraphing his attack with every move. He swings high, and I duck low. His clawed hands whoosh above me. He
Catch up on the last installments in this series here.
The skullslasher charges at me, choregraphing his attack with every move. He swings high, and I duck low. His clawed hands whoosh above me. He keeps his feet grounded and slashes again, forcing me to jump back and slam my back into the cage. The crowd erupts into fresh cheers as the steel bites into my flesh. I spring off to the side, barely dodging his next attack. The skullslasher’s claws tangle into the hexagonal links of the cage where I had been a moment ago. I use the time it takes my opponent to free himself from the cage and start backing up to the other side of the ring.
The crowd cheers again as my opponent spins and closes on me. Again, he goes high for my head. I duck once more. I grip the monster’s wrist in both hands, and I use his own momentum to toss him into the cage behind me. He hits hard. The collision of bone against metal is a soft melody beneath the chorus of jeers and boos. Ignoring both, I repeat my maneuver and walk backward to the other side.
The skullslasher’s eyes widen as he pulls himself up from the ring. His armored chest rises and falls as he breathes heavily from his open mouth. He must be young, trying the same move twice in a row. Most of his opponents probably fall with their head lopped off after that first haymaker. The ones that don’t probably get done in by his follow-up attack. Junior here has no endurance. He’s not used to his fights going beyond the first or second move.
Then again, my breathing is growing heavier too. Even in my prime, I never had the body for much do-si-doing. It’s even worse now that I’m older and fatter and nearly a decade out from putting the hurt on anyone. Luckily, Junior’s skeleton is weighting him down, making his movements just as hard as mine. That and his inexperience are the only reason why I’ve lasted this long. If this fight drags out though, it’s only a matter of time before I end up on the business end of those claws. An endurance contest isn’t an option.
Junior roars and charges at me, both claws held high. Like before, I use his momentum against him, but add mine into the mix. Bracing for the pain, I close my left fist, raise it and step into the blow. His face collides into my fist with a loud crack and knocks him backward.
Even with all that armor around his noggin, my blow rocks his brain around in his skull. But the crack had been more my hand than his skull. Red hot pain swallows up my whole fist. Blood drips from my knuckles, splashing down to my bare feet. With only one working hand, I press my advantage while I still have it.
I wrap my good hand around Junior’s skull, and I slam him back against the cage while he’s still dizzy. My thumb finds the opening in his armor, between the bone and the soft jelly of his eyes. Forming a hook, I press through the soft, wet gunk, and yank as hard as I can.
Junior screams as I rip his eye away from him. It dangles like a green slug from the empty socket. Again, I ram his body against the cage. Working my hand around his face, I try to go through the other eye, but Junior’s thrashing like mad. A searing slash of pain cuts across my right side and forces me away from him.
At a safe distance, I chance a look down at my ribs. Four-ragged lines have been torn down the entire length of my chest. The blood runs bright green beneath the tint of my goggles. Looking up, I barely have time to dodge the wild swipe at my face. A matching set of painful cuts rake across my face, severing my goggles and plunging me into darkness.
The chants and cheers of the crowd engulf me. Without any light to see it’s like I’m drowning in their approval for my upcoming death. Guessing, I jump back and feel a swoop of air and a chorus of boos. Standing there blind, I listen, waiting for the crowd to react to Junior’s next attack.
A hushed silence falls over the crowd, allowing me to hear the faint tapping to my right. Thank the absent gods of Appolopis that his feet are armored. I alter my stance slightly tilting toward the right, and a fresh surge of bloodlust issues from the crowd. Dropping to my knees, I duck low. A weight contacts my shoulder, and I tip the bastard over, sending Junior to the ground with a heavy thud.
I don’t waste any time. Raising my foot, I slam it as hard as I can down near the thud. Nothing but the hard matt, sending a jolt of pain through my ankle and up my leg. But after that, a light scurrying away from my foot. I step and slam my foot down again, this time across something a different texture from the matt. A grunt of surprise, but not of pain, is my reward. I slam my foot down again, driving all three-hundred plus pounds of me into the hardened heel of my foot.
This time I’m greeted with the crack of bone and a scream.
I bring my foot down over and over. I ignore the pain as something cuts into my foot. I ignore the howls and yells and snaps. I ignore the crowd and focus on just slamming my foot down as hard as I can. I don’t stop, not even when I feel the hard surface give way to something soft and warm. I keep going and going until I’m out of breath and the crowd falls dead-silent.
Something reaches out from the dark and grabs me by the shoulder. I jab my elbow behind me and hit soft flesh. A sharp gasp of air clues me enough to get hold of the new opponent. I hoist whatever it is up, a war cry erupts from my lips and I keep running until we bounce against the cage.
It takes me a moment to recognize the announcer’s voice behind his panic. He fumbles and slips something into my hand. Working my unruined hand against it, a faint, green glows comforting against the pitch black that has become my existence. I slide the goggles over my face, flinching as they graze the fresh set of cuts on my face. The world slowly starts to return to night vision green and make sense again.
On the opposite side of the cage lies the bloody pool of my work. I couldn’t tell in the dark what I had been hitting. Parts of Junior’s back are cracked, and a few other places. He’d tried to crawl away during my stomping. I had gotten lucky, or Junior had gotten unlucky. Most of my blows had landed on the back of his skull. Desperation had fueled my strikes until I manage to crack his skull open like a melon. Chunks of matter that I know should be grey etch a slimy green around the splinter dome that had been his head. Witnessing my work reminds me of the throbbing in my bleeding ankle.
“The winner,” the announcer said, rubbing his throat from where I had grappled him. He reaches out a hand to raise my arm but thinks better of it at the last second and instead just flourishes at me. “The Sledgehammer!”
He draws out the nickname for another thirty seconds while the crowd jumps to its feet. Looking up from the stands, I search for Mighty Micky. He smiles at me and tips his hat, but even through my goggles, I can make out the tightening grip on his cane. He’s squeezing it like he wants to crush it in his hand.
I know who the cane is a substitute for.
To Be Continued….