Duel Number 29

Duel Number 29

A Story by Hailey Gony
"

15 year old, Pressila May, is the dangerous duel fighter from the Eastern Village. If she kills another in a duel, her village wins food, and is able to stay alive.

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 Chapter 1

 

I'd been combative for a long time, so, fighting duals was not even close to hard for me. I was called upon for many fights by people who thought I was a delicate, little flower. It wasn't very difficult to prove them wrong.

To make matters worse, I lived in the village with the most food.

My village was filled with food. Food that other wanted and would do anything to get. Unfortunately, many people would fight, die, and kill to get our food. Almost half of the people in the world were wiped out in the terrifying and dreadful drought, which left far too much food for the few mouths to feed.

 

Though there was plenty food, it was almost all grain or dry, tasteless foods. All the good food had been wiped out by the drought, much to my devastation. You would think that no one would want horrible food, but when it's the only thing you have, it’s worth fighting for.

But unfortunately yes, other people wanted that food with everything they had. So, after many years of training with my now deceased uncle; I was appointed the one who would always fight for our village. Apparently they thought that was the perfect idea. At least they chose me, an able fighter, over someone who wasn't trained by the greatest fighter in history.

I took my spot with honor by fighting for the village, and thus we kept the little supply of food that we had left. Scarce as the food was, I would give my life to protect it and protect my people. Despite the fact it may cost me my life.

There were four villages in this country; Northern, Southern, Western and the Eastern Villages. I lived in the Eastern, which had a certain lifestyle that was different than the others.

In the Eastern Village you were born in a hospital and not given to your parents until you reached the age of 3 months. Why was that? Well, it's sort of complicated but quite useful.

The doctors took care of you

          Life for citizens worked a certain way in my village, the Eastern Village- there were also the Northern, Southern, and Western Villages. We were born in a hospital and then given our mothers exactly 3 months later, and the doctors would take care of us in that period of time. They spent the second month with us putting our tattoo that represented our village on our backs, and then we grew up to be about the age of thirteen with our families. When we reached that age, we were brought to a care facility for another 3 months, and the doctors there would feed us the right things and train us for the work we would have to start at age fourteen. We went to go back to our families on the day after our fourteenth birthday, and on that day, we were taken from our family to start working with dangerous jobs. At least 60 people were killed every year, just doing their jobs right. Sometimes, it was a job where we could still live at home, but those jobs were the more dangerous ones. My job, at my age most recently, 15, was fighting in the duels. 

       People who wanted to risk their life to win food called the duels. Duels that mainly said if you lose, we get some of your village's food. And these duels weren't like the ones where, if you were on the ground for three seconds, you lost. No, these duels were fights to the death; you fought until the other was lifeless. I had faced so many people, especially tall and thick males that could kill someone with a punch in the face, that sometimes I forget what it feels like to be calm and loving.

       No matter how tough the opponent had been for me, I'd always won, and it truly affected me, even though, at that time, I still hadn’t realized it. I thought I was still myself.

          Our main competitor was the Northern Village. We had a very strong rivalry with them. We had a very strong hatred for them, as much as they had for us. I had faced- and beat- their village 20 times out of the 26 I had fought. I won every single one. They kept coming back, in hopes that they would win some of their food back, or be able to kill me, but they never did.

A soft breeze was blowing my golden strands of hair slowly across my face, around my neck, and into my blue eyes. The sky was a cool blue, but the clouds were dark and mysterious. The air was chilled that day. It was the day I realized that dual fighting was extremely hard, emotionally. The day I realized that strength was not only a physical element. It was the day I realized that I needed strength to continue to kill the people I was supposed to hate, and it was, most importantly, the day I realized that the world I lived in was a cruel nightmare.

      I had just sliced a skinny male from the Northern Village in two pieces with the flick of my wrist and the quick slash of a sword through his stomach. I felt the sword pass through flesh, then hit my enemy's bone. I usually stopped when I got to the point of bone, the rock solid bone. The feeling of going through it was too intense for me to handle without gritting my teeth and screaming. But I allowed my strength to take over, and the bone was sawed in half as I gritted my teeth in utter disgust. This opponent had been a piece of cake. It had taken me five seconds to take him down. But I still hated my job.

          I stared at his lifeless body on the ground. His skin was so pale. His eyes lay open. His blonde, stringy hair was pasted to his forehead with sweat. I was becoming murderous; these people who had made me the duel fighter made me this way, but I didn't want to be this way. My face was blank and had no sense of life in it, just like his body.

     I looked to the entrance of the coliseum. It remained golden and shiny. The detailing was finely done with what seemed to be a toothpick. The ground beneath it was a silvery gray, and there were cracks in the pavement that could easily be tripped over on the way in. It even looked like a dangerous entrance, to a dangerous place. It most certainly was.

I heard weeping from one side of the crowd, and booing, and horrible words. I looked up to the stands and tried to smile. I thought about crying, but no, I was strong. Weakness was not an option. But these people expected me to smile! How could I smile after I took a life with my own hands? How am I supposed to control myself? All I want to do is weep, not smile or celebrate. I don’t want to be congratulated. It’s not worth it to kill people, especially those doing exactly the same thing I’m doing. But I have to protect my village. If I don’t kill these people mercilessly, my village won’t survive. Their food will be eaten and they will die, starved to death. During all this, only one moment of hesitation, confusion, and pure sadness crossed over my face.

      But the majority of the people in the fighting coliseum were from my village, so I blocked out everything but the cheering from them and plastered on a giant, fake smile and strolled forward triumphantly.

     But I couldn’t keep my mind off of it, and my strong façade slowoly started fading. I had always had that terrible feeling after I killed someone. It came especially after I stood in their blood, catching flowers and knowing my people would be safe for now, because I killed this person. My new coach, Aaron, made me get to know the person three weeks before the duel to learn their weaknesses and strengths, and I learned everything about them. I got to know them really well, and we became very good friends. But then, when I remembered the reason why they were there and came to my senses, I didn't feel anything but the urge to kill them. I’ve always hated this feeling. I felt helpless to it, every time. The job description was to protect the people, and no one else could do that as well as I could.

For people that tried to hurt my village or my family, my heart turned cold. And that cold feeling that made my heart feel like a block of ice melted when I saw my opponent, Verte, on the ground. He had told me how his father died, and I smiled and told him we had that in common, because my father had passed, too. Why couldn't I focus on the fact that he was trying to steal my food? All I focused on was his body in two pieces on the ground. I shouldn't have cared. I should've been happy that I had won my twenty-seventh duel. But the new "getting to know people" thing was ruining me. I tried my best to be the vicious, blood-craver I had always been taught to be, but Aaron wasn't making it easy. Aaron was making me see the hearts of people, while my uncle just made me want to see blood, which worked.

 I refocused as soon as my thoughts drifted back to the duel. Okay, I thought, these people need to think you're happy about winning, not obsessing over the fact that Verte's father died.

  I had to reinforce myself and put back on my best fake smile. I accepted the flowers coming in from every direction. They consisted of the pink roses that shimmered like a coat of nail polish was smeared onto them, the lilies that gleamed a bright white like the sun at its strongest time, and yellow sunflowers, my village's sacred flower, the one that was laid on the dead. It had always been the one that was placed on a newborn, the one that people clung onto as they took their last breath. And it was the one that I wanted to lay on Verte's dead body, but the village guards would take me away and kill me for worshipping a body from another village. And while I was so focused on these flowers, I had not noticed Verte's mother, weeping on one side of me, as they took his top and bottom half away in two pieces. She looked at me square in the face with hatred and screamed, "You did this!"      

 Shock instantly came over me. This had not been my fault! How could she blame me killing someone that tried to confiscate my entire village's food?! I understood that she was horrified by the fact that her son was gone forever, but had she expected me to go easy on him? Give him a little chance? I would never! Not when the life of the entire Eastern village depended on it. I watched the woman run off. She had lost two men in her life now, I somehow knew. I had done it. I had ruined her life. I had-

          "Pressila!" a voice snapped me back into reality. I looked back to see a shaggy haired brunette running off of the coliseum steps and staring at me with huge, green eyes the color of the luscious grass. "You ok?" Carius, my closest and most trustworthy friend, put a hand on my back to steady me right when he got close enough to reach me. I guessed he had found out I was in shock at what the woman had said to me.  I thought my skin may have even been the lightest shade of his eyes.

          "Yeah, just a little out of it... Can we go home?" I stared at him that time, thinking I was going to puke in his face. I had never felt that way after a duel. I was usually boasting about my win, but this was different. This was something much different. Aaron was making it difficult. What was the point of Aaron's method? It was ruining me. I would usually love the adrenaline rush, but knowing who I was hurting ruined me. I couldn’t go on like this.

          Carius just gave a small laugh, and I met his eyes with a hurt feeling. He immediately cut the laughter and gave me a serious, "Yes."

          Home meant back to the Eastern Village. It did not necessarily mean back to my own house, with the careless mother my and precious two year old baby brother. It just meant back to the peaceful and quiet area where fighting wasn't looked upon as good, and killing wasn't allowed. And that time, the "home" I was heading for was straight to Aaron's house.

          We walked through the gritty gravel back to our village and as far away from the wretched coliseum as was humanly possible. On the way through the village and to Aaron's home, my lunch came up in one of the nearby ponds, probably because I still didn't feel well about killing Verte. Carius laughed at me. At first I didn't know why he was laughing and felt a little hurt, but I caught on and cracked up- while still crying- when I remembered that me throwing up was how we met.

           We were in the same care facility where they trained us for three months before we started working. Carius and I were both scheduled to go to the Training Area for two hours. I had realized how good I was with a sword after I had cut one of the dummy's heads off with a quick slash. Fake blood was supposed to come out of any part that was cut off of the dummy. Mine wasn't spewing out blood, and I was confused. I went up close to see if the dummy needed to be refilled. As soon as I got to the stupid thing, red liquid splashed into my face and my eyes, but it mostly went straight into my mouth. Carius was the only one around when I threw up onto where the dummy's head should've been. He had a hand on my back because I was crying, and pretty loudly, at that. I absolutely despised puking.

          He was doing the same thing at the moment, when I puked into the pond on the way to Aaron's house. I felt better after about three minutes of clearing my throat, and we made our way to the double doors that opened the filthy world we liked to call Aaron's home.

          I spent the last year with Carius, at his house. He was the only best friend I had ever had. He had always been there for me. I looked at the side of his face as he walked on and smiled. His green eyes were so bright and visible, and I felt so much that I belonged, that I just wrapped my arms around him. He looked down at my face and smiled a confused smile. I just laughed. I was really thankful I had a friend, really thankful that I had someone who cared, and really thankful that I had someone who meant so much to me.

 

~

 

    Aaron was filthy; the floor could never be seen when you tried to look for it. A step into his house meant a step into molded food, old clothes, and other junk that wasn't worth listing for sale. He was usually sitting on a cluttered, dirty chair, and when we would tell him he needed to clean up, he would pick up one disgusting shirt, throw it away, and say, "All done."

    But this time, when we walked into Aaron's house, it was spotless, a never before seen clean that even my OCD mother couldn't have done. Carius and I stared at each other, then the house, and then back at each other. Something wasn't right.

 

    Suddenly, the first maid Aaron had for at least two weeks that didn't quit immediately walked into the room, looking very proud, asking, “Can I help you, Pressila?" She looked at me with raised eyebrows, and when I said nothing she switched her eyes, "Carius?" But we were both still silent. After we got asked a few times, I spoke up.

    "What happened to Aaron?" I whispered, but then immediately regretted it in case he might've been there.

    "Oh, he is gone." Luna stared at me. Gone? What did she mean?

    "Gone, like, dead gone?!" I started hyperventilating. Carius wrapped his arms around me to steady my shaking. I stuck my head into the little nook of his arm. I might have thought the method he was using on me was to ruin me, but I still relied on him to be my father. My father was dead, and now Aaron, dead?

"No! My darling, no!" she threw the mop to the ground to stroke my hair. I relaxed immediately. No, not dead, he’s just gone, but where?

"Then where is he?" Carius looked up at her. I was still recovering from the shakes, and he was still holding me.

 Luna looked at me thoughtfully, "Darling, he is only on vacation. He needed a break from all of the duels that have been happening lately. It is just too much for him to handle." she paused and got quieter, "That was how his wife died, you know. Way before you were fighting in these duels, his wife fought at age 20. She was finally defeated when she sneezed during a fight. The man she was facing threw a knife right into her head when she bent down to sneeze." I had already known this, but Aaron had told her so much. They must be close.

Luna shook her head and frowned. I really looked at her for the first time; she was old looking, but her lack of wrinkles helped her not to look too old. Her black strands of hair poked out of her tangle of gray hair and made it look like she at least had some colored hair left. And the way she dressed was just like everyone else, with usually gray or brown. But I looked on the inside of her too, and I found a woman with a heart, a woman that loved Aaron in a special way. Not the lovey-dovey married kind of love. A love that said she cared about Aaron.

          My thoughts were interrupted by Carius, who suddenly let go of me. "I have to go, my work starts in about twelve minutes," he sighed, keeping his eyes on the clock on the wall to the left of us, "You sure you'll be okay?" he grabbed my shoulders and looked at me with serious eyes. I nodded. I watched him smile and take a few steps until he reached the double doors.

    He slammed the door shut and my thoughts immediately turned to his dangerous job, Night Guarding. Night Guarding required guarding our village's food from other villages and other animals. And if animals or people did come, you would have to be able to fight them off, and if they wouldn't leave, you had to kill them. This was one of the more dangerous jobs. The dangerous jobs let you stay at home, but they were a bigger threat to your life. These people were next in line to be the Duel Fighter, if I got killed.

    "Pressila?" Luna asked me. Apparently, I hadn't been listening to her. "Do you need to talk to Aaron?" The answer was yes, I had come to his house to talk with him anyway.

    "Yes, please," I smiled.

    "No need for manners with me, I'm not like others, who expect you to be perfect at every point in your life," she smiled at me with gorgeous, blue eyes and gave me the phone as she left the room.

    I dialed his number. The phone rang and rang and rang, but there was no answer. I tried again. Nothing. Why couldn't he answer when I needed him? He was only there for me when I didn't want him to be there, in moments when I had to train for six hours straight. I called one more time. He still didn't answer, so I finally gave up.

    I told Luna goodbye and headed back to the coliseum. I didn't feel right about winning this duel. I needed to do something to make myself feel better. On the way into the place I was actually required to kill, I picked one of the sunflowers that was supposed to guard our village. I opened the golden gate that led into the arena where people had lost their lives. The puddle of Verte's blood was still there, but it was a brownish color from being dried up in the sun.

    I gently laid the sunflower there, watching its waxy petals sink into the blood puddle that was turning into a substance that felt like tar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2 

    Carius still hadn't returned from the night before when I woke up the next morning. His parents had called to see if he was at our house. He wasn’t, and he was nowhere to be found.

           I was worried to the point of pulling my hair out. My mother was frantically calling around, since she considered Carius her "favorite child" even though he wasn't her child at all.

          My mother didn't like me, and it was obvious. I had even heard her on the phone one day talking to one of her friends about how she wished my dad would've let her put me up for adoption. Even if I won every duel that was called, I would never have her love. Sometimes, I wondered why she hated me, but I stopped thinking about it after a while. I counted on Carius's mom to take care of me instead.

 

While my mom was still calling around, trying to find Carius, I was still pulling my hair and trying to sit up straight without feeling dizzy, and my baby brother had just started crying. Our house had turned into crazy.

          After two hours, I could've sworn I was going insane. My mother sat on the couch with every intention of ignoring me, and blaming me for letting Carius go to his job yesterday. My brother wasn't crying anymore, he was screaming, despite my trying to comfort him, and all the anxiety had forced me to believe that Carius was dead. End of story. 

           I walked into my room and looked at it, feeling empty like a part of me was gone. My eyes found the desk top. An old doll I had gotten when I turned fourteen rested there, Guarding my room like Carius Guarded the village. It was from him. It was one of the memories that I wanted to throw away, so the hurt wouldn't be there. But the hurt was already permanent. My best friend might be dead. 

          Suddenly, I heard a knock on my window. It came slowly, as if it was strained and dying. I turned to face the beaten up person on the outside of the glass. All I could do was stare. There was more knocking, but I didn't answer to it. Flesh was torn off in areas on this person's body. Blood was soaking the pieces of clothes this person still possessed. It wasn't Carius. This person did not have his green eyes. This person was definitely not my best friend. But I knew I recognized this person.

 

    I made myself walk to the window latch and open it. The person went limp and hung on the other side of the window. I helped pull her into my room with all of the strength in my body. This person looked at me with gray, sad eyes.

    "Deka?" I stared at the friend I had met in my kindergarten class. She had played her flute for our class one day, and I fell in love with the sound of it. I got along with her very well, but not even her friendship compared to my friendship with Carius.

    "Pressila, thank you," she looked at me harder as she winced, getting on my bed. I stared down and my blankets were now stained red. Those stains wouldn’t come out. They would be terrible memories.

Her eyes turned a dark gray color.  They were burning my skin. She locked her palm around my arm and squeezed. "I need to just get to the point, there was an attack last night," she paused, letting it sink into my brain, "and all of the Night Guards fought in the attack, but we all got hurt, and I'm not even the worst one," she said. I looked at her and saw the spots all over her body where skin should've been, but it wasn't there. “Pressila, there were dead bodies everywhere…” she shuddered, and I snuck a look at her eyes. They were full of tears that she was holding back. Full of tears that she didn’t want me to see.

          I squeezed her hand, and she shivered and pulled her hand back. I had squeezed the hand flesh was missing from. I just didn’t look at her again like I had done something shameful, but she put a hand on my shoulder as if forgiving me.

I flicked my eyes right back up to hers very seriously, "Where’s Carius?" I asked, having a sliver of hope that he may be alive. She didn't say anything for a while. I stared at her until she mumbled a few words.

          "No one has heard from him since the attack," she looked down. My heart dropped into a pit in my stomach. It didn’t come back up. After seeing Deka, I tried to have a little hope, but I had my they were too far up before she came. I stared at her head, where hair was missing on one side. I stared at her shirt, which was only made up of strands of cloth. I stared at her feet, where a small toe was missing from one foot. I didn't know what else to do but stare. I couldn't make myself say Carius is dead, let's move on now.

          My footsteps dragged on the rock hard ground. Each gloomy step reminded me of Carius, and how Deka said that no one had heard from him.

I tried to grab the telephone off of the wall, but I didn't have enough strength in my body to reach for it. I picked up a dusty brown stool that was near our table and lifted myself onto it to get the phone. I dialed the memorized number in my brain carefully making sure I didn't press any wrong numbers. I heard a, "Hello?" and asked Carius's mom to have a look at Deka.

          The knock on the door came fast, and I answered as quickly as I could. I explained that she was in my room and needed help, but I didn’t say a word about Carius. I didn’t want to be the one to break that news to her, especially when I could barely handle it myself. Mrs. Redone went straight to my room to see the injured Deka, and while she was with her, Deka was explaining everything she knew, even the fact that Carius may have been dead. I sat there listening in pain. Mrs. Redone was for sure hearing everything, but I knew she tried to block it out. Little sobs would come out of her mouth at random times, but she would cover her mouth and bite her lip every time. She composed herself to finish cleaning Deka's wounds.

    I was nowhere near being able to compose myself. I sat on my bed huddled into a ball with 8 blankets on top of me. Carius was dead for sure. I even had proof. Deka had told me herself. I couldn't deny it anymore.

           Mrs. Redone finished up with Deka, cleaning her last wound and smiling one of the fakest smiles I’ve ever seen. She looked different than when she had come in through my window. She looked like she could breathe again, but her eyes had a more melancholy look. Before she looked angry and dead, and now it was just plain sadness. Mrs. Redone also tried to look glad that she had found out what had happened to her son. As soon as she walked out of the door, though, I heard her screaming in sobs. Deka looked gloomy as we watched Mrs. Redone through the window to make sure she was okay. I wasn’t gloomy. I was nothing.

 

~

 

After a few hours, I needed proof. I needed assurance. I was interested, but mainly I wanted to accept that Carius was dead, and the only way to accept it was to see it for myself. I slipped on dirty, worn out boots and different clothes, and grabbed some food just in case I was there for a while. I definitely didn't need to tell my mother where I was going. She didn't care if I died anyway. For all I knew, she probably wanted me dead.

          As soon as I shut the door, I regretted it. I didn't want to see Carius dead. What if that was what I saw? But I couldn't wonder forever, so I decided to step with my right foot forward and keep going.

The sight of the Night Guarding area was on the other side of the pond I had puked in the previous day. The pond looked like glass. Different people had been passing, and they would skim their fingers across the top of the water to make sure it hadn't frozen over. I grabbed a molding log to throw across the pond so I could walk right over it. The grass on the sides of the pond was too high to walk in without getting bitten by a venomous snake.

     Suddenly, a loud noise rang in my ears. I looked behind myself to see a huge bucket of food being dumped into a basket that people in our village took their portion of food out of. It immediately occurred to me that it was the food I had won in the duel.

     I turned my head away from the smell that tempted me and threw the log into the pond with the arm that wasn't swishing the smell of food away from my nose. The first step I took was wobbly, but I was stable enough to keep going.

          Towards the middle of the pond, the log was breaking in and weak. It reminded me of myself. I myself was about to break if I didn’t hear from Carius somehow. I made a point to step over the middle, and though I almost fell in, I kept my balance. I made it to the end of the pond and was careful not to step on anything that may have held snakes. I looked at the wilderness in front of me. The trees were turning brown, and the leaves were wilting into shapes that didn't make me very comfortable. They made me think of death, bodies that wilted and decayed in these woods when attacks had wrecked their havoc, bodies that wilted and decayed after leaving the coliseum with eyes that would never open again.

    

Eyes that hopefully didn't belong to Carius.

 

     Every step I took was a reminder of why I didn't want to be in these woods. Carius may have died here, attacks occurred here, food was stolen here, people lost their lives here. It reminded me of the coliseum, and I didn't want to be reminded of that place any longer, not unless I personally was assigned to kill someone there.

     Suddenly, my thoughts were interrupted by dead bodies lying on the food grounds. Carius was supposed to have been Guarding there. Where was he? A mass of blood caught my eye, and I immediately turned to face my neighbor, Lila. Her blonde hair was now in wet, red clumps. The blood from her side covered almost all of her body, including her beautiful face. Her right hand was missing as well. The only girl in our village who had the potential of becoming a model was dead. Everyone around her was torn up as well. Not many I knew very well, but they were recognizable. Images of them alive and happy flashed through my mind as the shock started to flood my body. They were all dead. Who could do anything about it at that point?

          My search was still on, but Carius wasn't anywhere to be found. Even the detours that were found in the forest did not hold Carius in them. Nothing did. Had he been torn to bits? What had happened to my best friend?

I couldn’t breathe. My steps were like butterflies on a flower, taking in all the nectar around them that they could. I took in every sight, and it scarred me. These bodies, they were just there. They were just lying there, or sitting there, or decaying there. Carius can’t be one of them, thoughts raced through my mind, He is too worthy to die like this.

     "Please," I heard a moan from behind a nearby tree and jumped. Male voice, certainly. It was strained and cold, but it sounded familiar. It sounded like Carius.

    I ran as fast as I could, searching for this voice. I checked behind three trees before I heard this voice again. I quickly darted behind the nearest tree next to me, anxious to see my friend alive, but it wasn’t him. But there was someone else.

     Someone had survived the attack. He was male and had jet black hair. His skin was a pale color, most likely from blood loss. The muscles in his body could be seen through his torn up blue shirt. It was blue, odd for our village. He can’t have been from here. His arm was bleeding badly, and he looked very weak. But I had never seen him in my life.

     "Please," he moaned again, "Give me the medicine, it will cure my wounds, please." I sat down next to him and searched through the green bag lying on the ground next to his bloody arm. I held up a small jar from the bottom of the bag. He nodded and urged me to pour it on his gashes.

     "Where do you live in the village; I could contact your family! I could tell them you are alive, they probably think you are dead," I tried to open the jar as quickly as possible, but it seemed to be stuck.

     "My family... doesn't live here, in your village," he managed, "I'm from the Northern Village." So that explained the blue shirt.

     My heart stopped; it was the fifth attack in one month from the Northern Village. My mind twisted in my head and gave me a pain that was hard to overcome. I was furious with them. No, I was enraged. I was livid. They killed my people and didn't care. The hatred I now felt for these people had come over my whole body.

     I stood up and glared at the dying body in front of me. Filled with anger, I reached for the bag that was lying on one side of him. His arm reached the little green bag first, though. My strength was no match for his, even with him in the shape of the dead. He was pulling as hard as he could, probably trying to get me closer so that he could kill me. I still held onto the bag and reached for the knife that was inside of it. I got hold of the blade, but it cut me as soon as I planted a finger on it. Blood spewed out of the cut in my skin, and was making it too slippery to hold onto the bag. I pulled the bag harder away from him while holding the tip of my blood covered finger against my shirt.

 The boy was obviously getting weaker and feeling more pain as I kept fighting. He strained to hold on, but I could feel this fight getting easier. My last pull took all the strength in my body, but I freed the bag from his grip. I grabbed the knife right as laid a hand on it, and the boy was soon dead. I quickly laid a hand over his heart to make sure I felt no pulse. Nothing.

 I was glad he was dead, but I wished I wasn't the one to kill him. It was my first kill that was done on my own free will. I wasn't set up in a coliseum with someone and assigned to kill them. I decided with my own mind to stab this boy and watch him take his last breath.

 

             I knew this thought would recur in my mind forever.

 

                     ~

 

     I forgot why I was here until I realized that I could not talk to Carius about this problem. Carius; his name just brought back pain by the time I had searched so many places and had only found a man that I had decided to kill. Carius would've comforted me; Carius would've said it wasn't my fault. He would've said that it was the other person’s fault, and that I shouldn’t, I couldn’t feel bad for killing someone on free will. I used to be able to do this. I used to be able to kill on contact without a question in my mind. Where was Aaron?! I needed to talk to him!

 

          Where was Carius?

 

          I could feel myself losing control over my mind and nearly going insane. No, I was going insane. I couldn’t stay here any longer. I needed to proclaim Carius dead, because I needed to get out of there before I died of insanity. I looked at the hard, cold, unforgiving ground that all of the bodies around me now rested on. It screamed at me for killing the boy. The leaves resting on its surface flew up and slapped me as punishment, scolding all the while. I deserve this, I thought. But leaves don’t do that, and the ground doesn’t scream. Where was I? I was losing my mind.

          I rushed around trees and bushes, stumbling here and there, trying to regain my balance. Scrapes and blood started to appear on my body, but I didn’t notice the pain that came with them. I didn’t feel anything.

          I stumbled over a small, moldy, dark fallen tree trunk and a shock went through my arms as my palms hit the ground. I lifted myself and pulled a long red thorn out of my hand slowly. I need to keep running, I thought to myself, I can’t stay here anymore, I will lose my mind. I have to keep running.

          I ran; I listened to my mind and I ran! I began feeling tears on my cheeks. I needed to block them out, but it was so hard to manage! I didn’t know what to do anymore! Our world was collapsing over food! It was just food! What a stupid thing to kill for. I tripped over the next log and my shoe became caught in a thorn bush. I pulled and tugged. It didn’t budge. I started to grit my teeth. My temples throbbed.

I need to get out of here; this is too much for me to handle, I thought again. I tore off my shoe and left it there, trapped in thorns for another mad soul to find it.

          I heard the quiet trickle of water getting louder and louder as I became closer and closer to the pond. I stumbled over a few more bushes before I made my way to my final destination. The log was right where I had left it. Sitting right in the middle of the pond, waiting for me to hop on and get out of the monstrous place.

          I placed a foot on the log, then another, and quickly made my way toward the middle. I stepped too far into the middle of the rotten log and it cracked, one half sailing towards the other side of the lake, and one half that was holding me up. I inched back to the other side of the pond, careful not to let it slip. The only way to get around was going through the long and tall grass. I was sure there were venomous snakes in there. It was too dangerous. I shouldn’t have started walking towards the grass, but I did.

          I pushed aside two pieces of grass 3 feet taller than myself, and carefully placed each step I took in the correct spot. If I get bitten by a snake in here, no one will ever find me. And I will not be able to get out, I thought.

 The green of the grass was the green of his eyes. They connected. But his eyes were probably closed and dead at that point. I placed a few more steps on the ground and pushed aside a few more pieces of grass.

          Suddenly, I stopped. Something had just moved to my right. I turned my hair whipping into my face. I pulled the golden strands out of my eyes and mouth and gasped as something grabbed my leg. My mouth would not eject a scream, though I wanted it to. Shock had come over my whole body. My arms went limp. I was frozen. Without even looking, I knew a snake had just wrapped its body around my leg.

          I wriggled myself free of my fright and took out my knife. But I saw no snake. I saw a bloody, beaten arm connected to a purple, swollen face and an open, gashed leg. It was connected to a destroyed stomach and breathing chest. That was connected to short brunette hair that had been dyed red with blood.

          This was connected to the same green eyes I had been thinking about for the past 24 hours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3

 

 

          My room was the place where I found comfort while Carius was being washed, fed, clothed, and replenished. The place I found comfort while his mind would find its way into the original mind state he had; the original mind state that claimed us to be best friends; the original mind state that didn’t horrify him.

          I stared at the dirt brown legs of the table that Carius was laying down on. His body was almost shriveled up. His skin was slimy, just like when I had found him.

When I had found him. When I had found him.

          His face was contorted when I found him. His body was beaten and bloody and slimy with sweat and blood when I found him. His swollen face had been bitten by a snake, but thankfully not a venomous one, when I found him. But worst of all, his mind was scarred, by the time I had found him.

          I brought him home right away, dragging him through the village, in hopes that no one would think I tried to kill him. A few heads turned in our direction, but I kept going faster and faster until I was a few yards away from my house. When we had arrived, I snuck in through my bedroom window and laid Carius down on my bed. His blood immediately stained and soaked the white sheets that had been there with red. I told my mom to call doctors right away, but she didn’t believe me when I said I found Carius. I brought her into my room, and when she saw his body, she ran for the phone.

          I looked at him for a long time. It seemed like he kept trying to tell me something, but he was in pure shock and terror. I tried to get a few words out of him before doctors came to clean him up, but all he would tell me was, “Blood everywhere, I’m not going back.” I mostly cleaned the blood and sweat off of his face, but it was still swollen and bruised. The doctors appeared shortly after, and they immediately separated the both of us. He grabbed my hand, but they pulled him away, and a short cry came from his mouth when he finally let go of my last finger.

          I could tell he was horrified when I found him, sitting alone in that grass while he wrapped his bloody and swollen arm around my leg. He didn’t want my body to leave him, which was full of life, because all of the other lifeless bodies lying around him had left him. I felt pity for him. I witnessed all of the bodies lying around and blood everywhere, but he witnessed the happening of it all. He witnessed the blood falling from their sides. He witnessed swords colliding with flesh. He witnessed the people he knew, the people he had worked with for a year and lived with all his life, dying and falling to the ground.

          I sat on my bed with dried tears stinging my eyes. They weren’t in sadness, though. They were tears being shed for hatred of the Northern Village, hatred of the people that wanted to take everything we have, the people that want us to starve so that they can live.

I would glance over at Carius every once in a while then turn my head as quickly as possible. I couldn’t stand to look at his sad face, and when he closed his eyes, he would shudder in mortal terror, because when he closed his eyes, he would see the visions of all those people…

He was practically dead. Whenever I managed to stay looking at him, he wouldn’t even look at me. Every noise he heard would make him jump and cringe. Surely our government wouldn’t make him be a night guard anymore. Surely they wouldn’t send him away to work somewhere else because all of the jobs here were too dangerous for him. Surely they’d have pity on him.

          “Stop!” Carius finally spoke his first word since he had talked to me earlier that day. Everyone looked at him with confusion and terror, as he kept on going," Please don't hurt me! All you are trying to do is steal our food! Stop! Don't hurt them! Please Stop!"

He stopped yelling to the air and closed his eyes, letting the doctors continue to heal him. Did he still think he was there? In the food grounds? Couldn’t he see that he was in his best friend’s house? He needed to see that we saved him.

We all quit paying much attention to him, thinking he was fine, and my mind kept racing with how I was going to kill the next Northern Villager I came into contact with.  All of a sudden, Carius thrashed from the doctors and began yelling. "Run! Run! Go back to the village! Get away from them!" I gasped. I could hear the mortal terror in his voice. They were cries of a person being murdered. He must've been in some sort of trance.  My two year old brother began to cry, hearing the screams of horror. Mrs. Redone held in tears and came rushing to my side as I stared at my still blood covered, terrified friend in panic. She grabbed my hand as my mouth dropped open. I was led out of the room and into the hallway where Mrs. Redone put my head to her chest.                     "It's going to be alright, he's going to get out of this, and he’s going to remember us. He's going to remember what life was like before all of those people were killed. I promise." She lifted my head so that I met her eyes with mine. I had a feeling she was more reassuring herself than me.

          I put my head against her chest anyway and let tears fall one by one from my glossy eyes. Because no other person would be comforting me, I let her do that job as a parent. My mother hated me anyway. Mrs. Redone was the closest thing I had to a real parent.

          “I brought you out here because I needed to tell you something,” her voice immediately had a serious hardness to it. I looked up at her and begged my tears not to come. Her eyebrows knitted together and she quickly wiped tears from her flawless, shiny cheeks, “You kill them, every one of them; if the Northern Villagers come to fight you in a dual, you have to promise me you will kill them all. You tear the flesh from their bodies. Make them pay for what they have done to my son.” I stared at her, terrified because I didn’t know what was happening to her. “Pressila, listen, make them pay, kill them. Promise me.” She looked at me with hard blue eyes that had suddenly turned gray with hate. I had never seen her like this, ever. She had never wanted revenge like this. She had never wanted killing. I knew I wanted this, but that was just the person I was. Mrs. Redone should not have changed the person she was, not for this. The caring, loving mother I had known could not change.

          “I promise.” I looked down away from her staring face. When the child changes, the mother changes. That’s the life of a parent.

“I love you, Pressila. Thank you so much for finding him,”

Suddenly her motherly comfort was back, and she led me back into the room I had sat in before, the same room where Carius was waiting.

          She had a firm grip on my arm. I tried to loosen it, but she was unshakeable. I had never seen her like this at all. She was never a vicious person. I didn’t know how someone could change so quickly. Killing changes people. I had personal experience.

          I finally was released from her when she started walking over to Carius’s cold, shivering body. My sheets had never been changed, and Carius’s blood was still stained to my bed, but I sat on it anyway. Those few days had been nothing but torture for me. First I killed someone, and then I thought Carius had died, then I saw many people dead, then I found Carius almost dead, and then I was watching Carius in all of his pain and suffering and danger. I curled up into a little ball with my hands wrapped around my legs and stifled a shriek. I could smell the blood on the bed, and I just wanted all of this death to go away.

 

~

 

The next day, Carius regained most of his consciousness about the world again. He woke me up early, because he’d slept at my house in my bedroom that night. I slept on the couch, but I went to check on him every 30 minutes. I got no sleep. The worry was grinding into my head about Carius.

After Carius woke up, he walked me to my bed, and we sat down and talked about everything that had been going on. I talked to him more and more, I got more and more out of him. He began to realize that no one in our two households was trying to hurt him. He remembered us. He didn’t seem stuck in his trance anymore. He was beginning to be Carius again.

The doctors had done a pretty good job cleaning him up. His swelling had gone down enormously, his arm was bandaged and in a cast, and his body was stitched up. There was no blood to be found. I sat with him on my newly cleaned bed sheets as we looked out of my window. My eyes found a patch of green among a brown, dead field. Spots of yellow dotted the bright green grass. I could tell the yellow was the sunflowers recently planted. The flowers had replenished and healed that dead area. Our village flower. We remained there for a long period of time before he finally spoke up.

          “Pressila, the thoughts and sights are still in my head, and I can’t get them out,” he pushed his hand through his cut hair and rocked back and forth. I put a hand on his back to steady him. I knew movement would resurface the trance he was in from the day before.

“You are strong, and you are okay. We can’t do anything about those people now. Stop rocking, Carius. It will only hurt you.” I moved my hand back and forth across his back, soothing him. He suddenly faced me and laid a finger on my cheek, turning my head towards his. He breathed hard, and I could tell he was scared. “Thank you for saving me. I’ve never had a friend like you before, and I’ve never met a person that means more to me than you do,” he just locked eyes with mine, his breaths going in and out evenly. I smiled at him, but he just breathed harder, still scared of the visions he was probably seeing in his head.

          All of a sudden, Mrs. Redone walked through the doorway, and our heads turned fast to her. “I just wanted to see if you were ready to see me yet, son.” She looked at us in sadness and confusion. Carius stiffened at seeing her. I had told him what she had said to me the day before, and he hadn’t wanted to see her all day. He said if his mom turned into a vicious killer, she was only putting herself in danger, and he didn’t want to be responsible for what happened to her, though he loved her very much. He had stayed with me from when he woke up, to that point.

“I don’t want to see you yet, Mom,” he didn’t even meet her eyes. He didn’t want his mother to turn into that evil, killing person, but he had found out that she was becoming that.

“Son, I want to see you,” She walked closer up to us. I scooted away from Carius so that Mrs. Redone could sit next to him. His eyes found mine, but I knew his mom really wanted to see him, so I walked away. I acted as if I was walking out of the door, but stopped in the doorway and listened.

“Son, why don’t you want to see me? I only said that I wanted Pressila to kill all of them because I don’t want you to be hurt again. I want them all dead, and you will be safe if they are,” She flicked her eyes up to his in an angry way. Carius’s face turned red, and he grabbed our lamp and threw it on the ground. The glass shattered and a scream came loose from Mrs. Redone. I felt some of the glass tap at my feet, but I ignored it to keep watching. Mrs. Redone stared at him in pure shock. He fell to the ground with his head in his hands, then stood again and yelled.

“I don’t want you to turn into that, Mom! You are turning into one of them, one of those… those…killers! Killers from the Northern Village that want everyone dead so that they could have food! You are no different! I don’t want you to turn into that, Mom, but you are!” He sat down on the bed again and, as if he knew I was there, looked towards the doorway right when I had peeked my head in. He faced his mother again and watched her awe-struck face.

“I am not turning into that, Carius! That is unacceptable…” Carius never let her finish and started walking out of the room; Mrs. Redone stopped talking immediately.

“I told you, I don’t want to see you,” he looked at his mother and then at me, ran to me, grabbed my arm, and brought me through the maze of hallways that led to my basement. “I only want to talk to you about this, Pressila. No one else, okay?” he said while we were running through the village. “Maybe if I give my mom time to rethink what she said before, she will change, but for now, just me and you…”

          I reached the basement latch and pulled it upwards as Carius stepped inside first. He found his way down the ladder and firmly planted his feet on the ground before he told me to jump.

          “No, I’m not jumping, you have a cast on your arm, you can’t catch me,” I shook my head and took a step on the ladder.

          “You can’t hold the latch open and climb down at the same time, jump. I’m strong enough; I promise.” He said again. I relented and felt my feet leave the ladder. The bang of the latch closing sounded above my head, and a moment later, Carius held my entire body in one arm. I couldn’t believe he was so strong and he was able to hold me, though he was swollen and hurt in many places.

          “Doesn’t that hurt?” I looked up at him and planted my feet firmly on the ground. I realized my hands had been wrapped around his neck and quickly let go.

          “Pain medicine,” Carius smiled, and we walked over to the cluttered items in our basement.

          An old, dusty couch sat there in the corner of the rickety basement, and cluttered objects were thrown all over the floor. The only reason we keep this basement is to have a place to go when storms come.

          Carius plopped down on the couch and I followed shortly after. He just stared at me. “Carius?” I questioned, but he didn’t say anything. “Carius, why did you bring me down here?”

          He looked down, “This world is… messed up,” and he kept going, seeing that I was not at all surprised by these words, “Almost every single job involves killing someone or stealing others’ food. I mean, there has to be something done. I won’t sit here and let these duels decide whether we get food or not, or whether someone dies. None of this is helping anyone. I don’t want to hurt anyone anymore, like they hurt me, and all the others who were night watching” He looked back up.

          “There is absolutely nothing we can do. There’s nothing, Carius. The government controls this, and the villages are split up, and that’s just how our world is run. There is nothing more we can do. We wouldn’t have enough impact anyway. They won’t change the way they run things around here, just because two people say so.” I looked at him straight in the eye. He knew I was right.

 

~

 

Three days later, I woke up to a knock on my bedroom window.

Oh no, a Northern Villager had come to kill the prized duel fighter from the Eastern Village.

I dared to sneak a look outside, only to see a guy standing there with his arm in a cast. I opened the window and smiled lightly, “Yes?”

          “Come on, there’s something we need to do,” Carius grabbed my arm.

          “Wait, it’s cold, I need to change,” I blushed, embarrassed from talking about changing my clothes in front of Carius.

          “Oh, okay, hurry.” He laughed silently and pulled the window down. I hurried and closed the curtains, being sure to leave no room for peeking. I slipped on hunting pants and flew through the window as fast as I could. Suddenly, Carius started jogging, and I followed suit.

          We found ourselves running as fast as we could through roads and people, trying to get away from the world that was tormenting us. I saw the little patch of sunflowers that I had seen in my window that day. All of a sudden, Carius stopped and stared at the world around us. My hair blew into his face, but I twisted it in between two of my fingers to prevent it from getting into our eyes. He turned to face me again then looked around. He had taken me to the pond, and his eyes were urging me to cross with him. What was he thinking?

          “Carius, this isn’t a good idea…” I grabbed his hand before he stepped into the green grass. He squeezed my hand that was grabbing his and smiled nervously.

          “I have to get over this fear, and so do you, but you just don’t want to admit it,” he grabbed my arm and pulled me into the grass with him. It went over my head like a giant green umbrella, “We can’t be scared forever.”

          He was right. I couldn’t be scared of this forever. I smiled at him, saying, “Okay.”

          I grabbed the back of his shirt, terrified. He grabbed my shoulder as we passed through the grass. We both looked down at the spot where I had found him when we reached it. He started to shake intensely, and the shuddering grew more rapid as we got closer and closer to the place of death.

          “Carius… stop, you’re scaring me,” I looked at him. All he did was grip my shoulder tighter with the arm that wasn’t wrapped in a sling.

          “I’m okay,” he looked down, “I’m okay. I’m okay.” I knew it was a bad idea, letting him go back and see everything that would make his trance come back to him.

          “We should go back,” I stopped him, careful to grab his arm that wasn’t in pain. I could feel that he was still shaking, harder.

          “N…n…no. I need to do this.” His foot finally stepped out of the tall grass and into the death scene. I realized I was trying to help him, but I was afraid, and that was the real reason I wouldn’t go in. Duel fighters were not supposed to be like that. They were fearless blood cravers that weren’t scared of a little area where people were killed.

          But the food grounds had been cleared, and no bodies were left there. A bit odd, for something like this.

          No one usually cleaned out the food grounds after an attack. I concluded that it was probably the most serious one the village had gone through. But what was left there was almost as bad as the bodies themselves. The terrible red stains were in puddles all over, and I could feel the muscles in my hand grip his shoulder tighter until he winced. I looked to the trees that baskets of food usually hung from. The trees were bare and empty, just like my heart towards the Northern Village.

          Carius bent down and massaged his temples. I understood, mainly because I was going through the same feeling. I wanted to curl up into a ball and never open again, but I couldn’t because I had to be there for him. I had to be strong even when he was weak. He was my best friend.

          My head throbbed. I could feel my pulse running through my arms, finding a path to my legs, stretching into my fingertips, and making its way through my whole body.

Beat, beat, beat.

That’s all I could feel. Nothing else, because there was nothing else.

          I put a hand on Carius’s shoulder to steady both him and myself. We both could have died there, and that was only just yesterday. It had seemed like forever ago, but it had been less than 24 hours back in time. How can a life change that fast?

          Carius began shuddering again when he walked straight into a dried blood puddle. He screeched and slid his foot out of the stickiness slowly. I calmed myself down to speak to him, and once I looked at him, he seemed calmer, too.

          “What do you think we are going to accomplish here? We aren’t any less scared than we were before,” I turned his body to face mine by tugging on his shoulders, “This isn’t working. You’re trance will come back.” All he did was smile at me, “What?” I folded my arms across my stomach.

          “Don’t you realize that you are completely calm right now? I didn’t want to be scared of this place anymore, because this was the only place that we would actually be able to get away from the rest of the world that hates and changes everyone,” he started walking around, looking around. He was right. Not being scared of this place meant having a getaway from all of the killing and hatred that went on in our four villages.

          I began looking around with him and found that the only thing I was truly scared of were the visions and kills I had seen. He was completely right. That place that we were in could be a getaway. I was beginning to forget about everything, all of the terrible events that had gone on there. Then I saw the tree.  It was still the tree where I intentionally killed someone on my own free will, no matter how much I didn’t want it to be. I lurched over and hunched my back, holding my stomach, careful not to puke. I had not told Carius yet, and it brought back pang of guilt in the pit of my stomach. He ran to me and threw his arm onto my back. I got down on my knees and held in a scream. I had never felt this much pain and guilt in my mind before. It made me sick.

          “What?! What’s wrong?!” I didn’t answer him. I was too overwhelmed, “Pressila, are you ok?!”

          “I’m fine,” I finally muttered out of pure need. If I didn’t respond, he would have gone insane and crazy. He put his hand under my shoulder to help me sit down. Uncovering my hands from my face, he frowned.

          “What’s going on? Why did you suddenly freak out like that?” I could tell the tone of his voice was full of concern. I had wanted to tell him when it had first happened. I should have easily been able to help the boy then, but I chose to kill him instead. I needed to tell someone.

          “I…I-I I killed someone,” I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t. Our world then was filled with terror and murder and killings and hate. I wanted it all to go away.

          “And…” He looked confused. I wiped the coming tears from my eyes. I forgot I hadn’t explained. I killed people all the time. Of course he was confused. If I would’ve told him that I did it on my own free will, he would’ve understood why I was going crazy.

          “You’re right; I mean, I was forced to, so it’s not that big of a deal. I always kill people.” But I decided not to tell him.

          “Are you sure you’re okay?” He looked at the trees surrounding us, all of the ones that knew the secret I was hiding, “You seem uncertain of… something.”

          “I think I’m just still a little nauseated from yesterday, I don’t really want to be here anymore…” I looked at him to see his reaction. He had none.

          “I thought we were done being scared of this place. What happened to that?” His gaze was still fixed on the trees.

          “I just..,” As I dwindled off, I knew if I told him, he would understand, but what would he think of me if I always say that I hate the killings and rivalries, but yet I killed the Northern Villager, when I could have healed him easily? I was a hypocrite.

          “You just what?” He pushed softly. Carius finally turned to face me. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to. He stared at me with his burning green eyes for a while before he gave in. “Fine, we’ll leave,” he took my hand to help me up. I noticed how calm he had become, and I was happy for him. He had gotten over what he was terrified of before. As for me, I just resurfaced everything terrible.

          “You’re calm,” I said as I half-smiled and got to my feet. He had seriousness in his face.

          “It’s easier when you feel like being calm and strong will protect someone you really care about,” he looked at me, then at the trees as we exited through the tall, forgiving grass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 4

          Carius had not wanted to go home that night, so he slept at my house again. His mom came to our house many times the next day, trying over and over again to get him to come home; to get him to even look at her. He remained silent around her, never met her eyes, and completely ignored her when she came in to talk to him.

          I wanted to blame him for turning away from his mom so suddenly like that. I wanted to scold him for what he was doing to her, how he was making her feel. But I couldn’t blame him for any of that. I knew that if my father had turned into someone that wanted to kill everyone while he was still alive, I would’ve hated him just as much to make him see that killing everyone isn’t the answer. There were occasional duels, but those required killing. You weren’t killing just to do it, just because you hated people.

As for my mother, though, I didn’t care what she turned into. She was a beast to me anyway.

Mrs. Redone was outside of our house crying after Carius had told her to leave for the sixth time. It was morning and the sun reflected off of the tears staining her cheeks. I felt terrible for her. Mr. Dile, her husband and Carius’s father, was at war. Of course she felt lonely, like she had lost two men in her life.

Just like Verte’s mother. The woman whose son I killed in my last duel.

I couldn’t watch her sob so heavily any longer. I grabbed the door handle and flinched. By talking to her, it meant that I was betraying Carius. I had already betrayed him once by not telling him that secret, even though we tell each other everything……

I didn’t care. The door flew open and cold wind rushed to my face, flushing my cheeks. How was Mrs. Redone out here in this cold, wetting her face with tears?

“Carius?!” She whipped her face in my direction, and disappointment shattered the quick hope in her eyes.

“No, just me,” I was expecting her to smile and invite me to sit next to her like she usually does in her motherly way, so I began walking toward her.

“You’re a monster!” I stopped in my tracks as her voice cracked with agony and hatred. “How could you tell Carius what I said?! You ruined me! My relationship with my son is now over, because of you! He hates me! I have no one left!” Completely surprised by her reaction, I stumbled backwards. Keep your composure, Pressila. Let her know you still care. Don’t get angry, I thought to myself.

“You have me,” I tried to make my smile look genuine. She glared at me, like she was trying to read my soul.

“I…don’t…want…you,” she said it slowly and cruelly, as if someone were to say, “I’m about to kill you.”

I stumbled backwards through the doorway and ran inside, terrified. She was changing. There was no way to fix her. I had no one left to be my mother anymore.

“Carius!” I called for him many times before he ran down our stairs to meet me. “Carius!” I saw his figure running around the corner of our beige wall.

“What? Is something wrong?” He grabbed my shoulder and wiped the one tear I had shed off of my face.

“Your mom, I’ve just never seen her like this before, I don’t have a parent to love me anymore, Carius.” I sat on the ground and he sat next to me. I began explaining what had happened outside, and how Mrs. Redone had acted like she hated me. He laid a hand on my arm, as if telling me not to worry, but how could I not?

“Carius!” I felt the rush of cold air on my back as Mrs. Redone stepped through the doorway and clawed Carius’s arm. “You shouldn’t be near her! She is the one who drove you away from me!” Carius winced. Mrs. Redone took her fingernails out of Carius’s arm and blood spewed out of the tiny cuts they left. Then she grabbed his shoulder, and her hand found her leg. She drew a knife from her pocket. I gasped and Carius broke away from her grasp to shield me from whatever she was going to do with that knife. She must’ve been going through an insanity phase. This must’ve been something else inside of her. This was not actually her. She was going to kill me.

“Mom, put it down, this is Pressila! She’s like your daughter, Mom! What’s wrong with you?!” The vein in his forehead popped out. I grasped him tighter than I was already clutching him. He grabbed me too, but kept me shielded behind him.

“Oh, so now you’re talking to me, just to protect that… thing! She drove you away from me!” her eyes bulged out of her head it seemed.

“This is Pressila! You love her!” But she only held her knife higher. Then he did it. He slapped her, right across her face. She dropped the knife and held the red mark on her cheek that was turning blue. He had punched her, not slapped her, judging by her already forming black eye.

“Mom, I know you’re in there. This is not you,” he grimaced and looked ashamed at what he had done. His hands were shaking. I grabbed both to steady them. Then Mrs. Redone looked up, as if his punch had woken her up.

“Son, I’m sorry,” she sounded like herself again, “I think I was in a trance,” she glanced at me. I was still holding tight to Carius. He took my arms off of him, but he had to pry me off because I was still trembling.

“Pressila, I’m so sorry…” she looked down to her knife, “Did I really…take this knife… Oh my God.” She sat down, her head swaying back and forth, “Pressila, I would never hurt you or Carius. Pain, emotionally or physically, can put you in a trance, I guess,” tears streamed down her face, faster than I’ve ever seen anyone cry, “I can’t believe I tried to ki…. I can’t even say it…” She sobbed heavily and hung her head far down. I knew she wasn’t herself, but I was still scared of her. I was in total shock. The corners of my vision blurred. Mrs. Redone tried to kill me. I thought she was my mother.

I lost my balance and Carius caught me, “Pressila?” I must’ve been too in shock to respond. Mrs. Redone tried to kill me.

“Honey, are you okay? I didn’t mean it!” I could faintly hear Mrs. Redone’s voice. But she tried to kill me.

“Mom, she’s going into a coma from shock! Go find a doctor that’s not you!” I could feel Carius lay my head down on the ground gently.

“Baby, I’m a doctor, I can heal her,” she sniffed. She tried to kill me.

“You tried to kill her! You’ve done enough! Do you think seeing your face will help her?” He felt my head, I could feel his hand on my head, but my vision had blackened. I couldn’t see his face.

“Ok,” I heard the door shut.

“You’re going to be okay,” Carius’s voice. That was him. I knew that voice.

I heard a few more faint whispers, a door opening, and then… nothing.

 

~

 

          “No, it doesn’t seem that she will make it,” I heard a deep, male voice say. I still could not see anything. I wanted to speak or ask who they were talking about, but nothing came out of my mouth.

          “But… we can keep her on life support… my family will pay for it!” Carius. That was his voice.

          “Money isn’t valuable right now. Food is valuable.” The other voice stated. What was going on?

          “We’ll pay in food! Anything we can do!” Carius whimpered. I wished I could see something.

          “Even if we keep her on life support, I don’t think she will live. The shock took over her entire body.  It made her heart stop, son.” They were talking about me. I remembered Carius’s words from before; she’s going into a coma from shock! I needed to tell them that I was alive and okay.

          “Please, there has to be something more we can do…” Carius sounded weak. I heard crying from a woman in the background. My mother wouldn’t cry over me. It had to be Mrs. Redone. Mrs. Redone! She tried to kill me.

          All of a sudden, I freaked out from more shock and the heart monitor was beeping like crazy. I could feel the warmth of bodies swarming me. “What’s going on?! Is she okay?!” I heard Carius scream.

          “I don’t know. Someone go get me the head doctor!” Footsteps rushed out of the room. I felt someone grab my hand and squeeze it. Suddenly, my vision was not black. I could see colors but the shapes were blurry.

          “She opened her eyes!” Carius yelled. His voice was loud, so his face must’ve been close to mine.

          “What?!” I could see the doctor clearly now, “Honey, say something, we’ll know you’re okay.” I tried to open my mouth to say something, anything, but I couldn’t.

          “Something’s wrong.” The doctor turned to Carius and everyone else around me. My mother, my brother, Mrs. Redone…

          Mrs. Redone. She tried to kill me.

          “Noooo!” I screamed as I sat up. The heart monitor went crazy again. The shock of Mrs. Redone was awakening me.

          “Pressila!” Carius had been the one grasping my hand. He grabbed me and held me tight to him. I felt sore everywhere. Wet tears splashed on my shoulders. He was crying. I squeezed him back then pulled him away from me to see his face. He smiled with red puffy eyes.

“Well, she’s fine now, I’m leaving,” my mother smirked as she walked out of the room slowly. She never cared. She just wanted to know that I was alive and that was all. It was sad. Carius smiled again to make me feel better, and I smiled back at him, but saw a figure coming to embrace me out of the corner of my eye.

          “Pressila, how are you honey?” Mrs. Redone smiled with her arms out, apparently waiting for a hug. I gasped and flew back, breathing heavily. Pain rushed through my head.

          “Whoa, Pressila!” Carius clutched my head. I had hit it on the back of the hospital bed, and red blood started to flow from the cut. The IVs in my arms had ripped out, and I grasped my arms in pain, gritting my teeth.

          “Stop, child!” the doctor in charge of everything had appeared in the room with a disgusted look on his face. He took Carius’s wet, red, blood covered hands off of my head and placed his own there.

          “Get her away from me!” I yelled while pointing at Mrs. Redone. The doctor exchanged glances with her then faced me again.

          “What did she do to you?” He readjusted his hands on my head. I could barely feel the pain of the cut, “Why are you scared of her?” The doctor looked back at her. Mrs. Redone’s eyes held pain. I couldn’t bear to keep my gaze on her. She had tried to murder me. She couldn’t find the strength in her body to stop, even if she was in a trance. She could have tried to stop, but she didn’t. I would’ve tried if I were in her position, so she should have found the strength in her to not kill someone that was a daughter to her. I felt bad for her though, because I knew it was something neither one of us would ever forget.

          “She… she tried to… kill me!” I spat in her direction as I spoke. His eyebrows raised, and he turned his head to Mrs.  Redone, who covered her face with her hands and fell to the ground.

          “This is what caused her shock coma; I can feel her heart beating so much faster when she mentions or sees this woman,” when he held his hand toward Mrs. Redone, he couldn’t even look at her, “Her heart was probably beating so fast because of shock, that it stopped,” he seemed disgusted with Mrs. Redone, “And apparently, the shock of this woman woke her up as well.”

The head doctor motioned for the other doctor to get a wrap for my bloody head. Carius grabbed my hand again just as the head doctor began to leave my side. He squeezed it, and I winced. Apologizing with his eyes, he backed away, but I told him with my eyes that I wanted him to stay. He did.

“Five minutes ago, I was trying to keep you on life support… I thought I was going to lose you.” His eyes were still puffy and red, but no more tears came from them.

“But you didn’t lose me… I’m still here,” I started to laugh but it hurt my chest. I grabbed it and closed my eyes.

“Boy, leave her. She’s obviously in pain. She needs to stay here for a few more nights. She was about to die earlier, do you remember?” The doctor that had the wrap for my head said. It was strange. I had always thought I would’ve died from losing a duel, or something dangerous, but not from a coma. Not from the mother… of Carius.

“I’m staying here with her, then,” Carius walked back to my side. I looked up at him, glad that I wasn’t going to be alone the next few nights. The doctor looked like he was about to argue but then stopped.

“Fine, it gets freezing, though. You will need to get a blanket. Come with me,” the doctor started to lead him out of the room.

“Then I’m staying here, too!” Mrs. Redone stopped Carius and the doctor. She tried to kill me. Those words rang in my head. I tried to control my shock with all the will I had. I managed to maintain it instead of going crazy.

“No!” the head doctor began walking up from the back of the room, “She won’t be able to see or interact with you for at least 3 weeks, I’m sorry,” The doctor led her out of the room as she covered her hands in her face again, “It’s for her safety.”

“Please! I didn’t mean it! I didn’t me-“ but the door was slammed shut, effectively cutting her off. Carius looked back at me before leaving the room for blankets.

I still couldn’t believe it. Five minutes before, I was basically considered dead. Everything was just too much to take in, so I let my eyelids fall and took deep breathes until I slept.

 

~

 

“Hello, sleepyhead,” I woke to Carius sitting on my bed, “The doctor said not to let you sleep for more than five hours today,” he got up from my bed side and sat back down on his chair, curled up in a blanket, waiting for me to say something.

“Hi,” I replied. My head was sore, my arms were sore, and my chest was on fire. The IVs had been put back into my arms, though, apparently sending pain killer through my body.

Carius laughed, “So, how are you doing?” I met my eyes with his and shook my head, letting him know I was hurting.

“Oh,” he sighed, “Well, I talked to the doctor, and you are getting out of here in 3 days.” I nodded and smiled. He looked at me with the green eyes I had found in the grass that day when I thought I had lost him forever.

“You are going to stay, right?” I asked, my voice barely a whisper.

He walked up to my bed side and placed a hand on mine, “I’m not going anywhere,” he smiled, “Are you cold?” He ran to get me the blanket from his chair.

“No, you need it, I’m fine, and I’m hot anyway,” I said as a stupid shiver released from my body.

“Liar,” Carius smirked as he laid the blanket on top of me. He rubbed his arms and walked back to his chair. Pulling his knees to his chest, he smiled at me and closed his eyes. Shivers came from his body, too.

“Carius, come take the blanket back, you’re freezing,” I whispered to him.

“No, you need it more than I do,” he smiled and closed his eyes again. I gritted my teeth.

“Then go ask the doctor for another one,” After I said that, he just looked at me.

“Pressila, I’m fine, stop trying to take care of me. The doctor has no more blankets,” Carius lied as he rubbed his arms and pulled his knees closer. It was going to be freezing, the doctor had said so. Maybe I was being too protective of Carius, but I didn’t want him to be uncomfortable, especially since he was sitting there only because I was in the hospital.

“Then come under this blanket with me,” I said, my voice not a whisper this time. Carius looked up from his daze and smiled.

“I would crush you like a,” I cut him off.

“Carius, just come! You’re going to freeze to death,” I laughed and held up the blanket. He relented and got up from his chair while smiling, then pushed the blanket back and lay beside me.

“You can’t go to sleep right now, though. The doctor said I’m not supposed to let you sleep until three o’clock,” Carius smiled and turned to face me.

“I won’t fall asleep,” I smiled, “Warmer now?”

“Much warmer,” he touched the patch on my head then smiled, “Thanks.”

“Welcome,” I whispered. All I could hear after that were his deep breaths, letting me know that he had fallen asleep.

 

~

 

“Good morning,” Carius said as my eyelids lifted and light burned my eyes. He was sitting on the chair next to my bed, shivering. He sounded upset.

“I thought I wasn’t supposed to sleep,” I stretched my entire body out as a tingling went through my legs.

“I figured you would need the rest after what I’m about to tell you,” He turned towards me and I saw the newspaper in his hand and his puffy, red eyes staring straight at me. No, not another tragedy. I couldn’t bare anymore news. I needed at least a day where something bad wasn’t going to happen.

“Why do things keep happening?!” I screamed and put my head in my hands, then fell back onto the bed. I looked back up at his startled face. I was just done with all of the pain and hurt from the past week. It had barely been a week. This had all happened too fast; I just needed things to slow down, so I could recover for two minutes.

“I’ll tell you later,” Carius tapped my hand and walked to the door, “Oh, and I have good news, the doctor said you can get out today if you would like,” then he walked down the hall and disappeared.

“Carius… I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that about you, I just…” but I stopped because I knew he couldn’t hear anymore.

 

~

 

“Thanks for staying, Pressila! We hope you recover nicely, and we hope you won’t be back anytime soon!” The doctor laughed at his “funny” little joke he made, but I just smiled and watched for Carius. He still hadn’t shown back up since that morning.

“Thanks again,” I smiled at the doctors that had taken care of me and put my last signature on the paperwork. Carius still hadn’t shown up.

“Are you expecting someone? That boy you were with?” the doctor smiled at me, “The one who stayed with you for three days?”

“Yes, actually,” I replied, not making eye contact.

“He must be a great friend to have stayed with you through all of this,” He put too much emphasis on the word friend, and I quickly got aggravated with him.

“Goodbye, thanks,” and then I walked out of the door without Carius.

I walked through the crowds of people, and many stopped me to ask what happened, but I couldn’t answer. I was in too much pain. Not just pain of my head and body from that coma, but the pain of hurting a friend.

Some asked me about when my next duel would be, but they weren’t concerned about me, they just wanted the food that would come from me. And what if I finally died? What if I was finally beaten? These people would have nothing.

I had heard Aaron was back, but I didn’t know if I wanted to see him. I didn’t know if he was going to tell me something I didn’t want to hear. I didn’t know if he was even ready to get back into the training. I didn’t know anything. I wanted to be clear about the world again. I wanted to feel like I had some control over what happened in my life again. But I didn’t know how. I didn’t know how to make the world stop and listen to me. So I just let it drown me.

Suddenly, Carius caught my eye. He was sitting by the pond, looking to the other side. The food grounds.

“Carius!” I called out. He turned to me and turned back around. What was wrong with him? I walked up beside him, “Carius?”

“That place, I " I could have saved her,” He shuddered.

“Who?”

“Deka,” he sighed and put his head in his hands.

“Carius, she’s fine, I saw her that day. She’s only got a few broken bones, but she’s healthy enough,” I said. He looked up at me.

“No, she was transferred to the Northern Village, because she was too weak to stay at the food grounds,” Carius replied. I looked down at the arm Carius had in a cast. “And you can’t stay in your village if you need a less dangerous job, so she was transferred…” He looked down, and then at me, his face close, “I could have prevented this, if I wouldn’t have run away, if I would’ve tried to save her…” I could feel his breaths on my face, “she might still be here.”

“You couldn’t have done anything more. If you would’ve saved her, then you might not be here,” I kept my face there, and tried to picture life without Carius. I wouldn’t have a friend. No one.

“But life would have been better for Deka,” he finally took his face away, frustrated.

“But it wouldn’t have been better for me…” I whispered and drew my face back to his. He looked at me, his eyes wide. He looked down at the ground then back up at me. I didn’t know what his response would be. But his arms only flew around me in a hug and squeezed me. I squeezed him back, careful not to hurt his arm in the cast, and then helped him up.

“Thanks,” he smiled and passed a hand through brown, shaggy hair. I pushed my blonde hair behind my ears.

“It’s true,” I smiled back. I waited for him to say something, but he didn’t. So I started walking in the direction of Aaron’s house with my bag in my hand from the hospital.

By the time I had gotten to the road, I heard, “Pressila, wait!” from Carius. I turned back and smiled.

“Yes?” I laughed.

“I’m coming,” he jogged to catch up with me. I smiled. He had stayed with me in the hospital, had gone against his own mother for me, and I just couldn’t help think how lucky I was to have a friend like him. It was true. I couldn’t lose him.

“Okay, but hurry, I’m walking away!” I laughed and started running. I looked behind me and saw him sprinting to catch up and laughing as hard as he could. I was so glad both of us were able to smile again, even if it was for just a short moment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 5

          “Aaron?” I pushed the doors open and was greeted by Luna’s smiling face. She stopped her broom for a moment to speak to me.

          “He’s on the phone, the government called him,” Luna sighed and continued sweeping. I frowned. The government calling him was not a good sign. I looked around the house to see that it still looked spotless even though Aaron was home, thanks to Luna.

          I looked at Carius running up the porch steps, panting, his poor cast seeming to unravel around his arm.

          “Carius! Stop! You’re pushing yourself too hard,” I ran to him and reached for his arm. Grabbing the fabric, I rewrapped it tightly around his arm and pulled.

          “You’re just too fast for me,” he smiled and looked up at me. I pushed my hair behind my ears and smiled lightly, continuing to look at the bandage.

          “You’re just too slow for me,” I let out a small giggle as I listened to his deep breaths while I was barely breaking a sweat. I looked up after the cast had been rewrapped around his arm and stared into his green eyes.

          “DAMNIT!” a loud, booming voice interrupted us, “I think they’re just jealous now! They don’t even want the food anymore! They just want her dead! How many times will she have to fight?!” The tone in Aaron’s voice scared me, and I am rarely scared. He kicked the chair in raging anger, “Luna, I’m so done with them wanting to beat us. Soon, they’ll train someone enough that they’ll kill her!” Aaron threw his phone, and a shattering of glass rang in my ears. I stood up abruptly and Carius followed, lightly resting his good arm on my shoulder. Luna shook her head and pointed to me at the door. Aaron suddenly locked eyes with mine and put his hand on the back of his head. His dark hair and dark eyes intimidated me, and the black shirt he was wearing made him look even tougher.

          “Pressila, they told me you were scheduled to fight in another duel with the Northern Village,” he looked down quickly whenever the words slipped from his mouth, clearly embarrassed that I saw him say those things.

          “Pressila,” Carius turned me around to face him and wrapped his arm tightly around me. He knew all I needed was a hug. This had been my third duel in a month. They were all against the Northern. I was tired of fighting. I was tired of fighting them. Sure, I killed easily, but I hated doing it.

          “No, it’s fine. I gave my word, I won’t step down.”

          “Pressila, I guarantee they will have someone against you this time that could crush you with his fingers. I don’t even want to take a chance of you dying. They don’t even want the food anymore. I’m starting to think they just want your life,” Aaron sat down hard on his chair and frowned, obviously trying to think of a way to stop this duel. I didn’t know why he was so nervous, though. I had fought some of the most admired fighter of all time and killed each one.

But something was wrong. Aaron was nervous. But he knew there was nothing we could do. You can NEVER stop a duel. So, I just smirked.

          “I signed up for the job didn’t I?”

 

~

 

          Aaron’s house was the final straw. The Northern Village was our enemy.

          We all knew it before, but as soon as we found out they wanted to fight in another duel, we knew they just wanted to hurt our village.

          Carius and I were walking home from Aaron’s house when he suddenly looked up at me and asked, “Do you think Aaron was being serious? Does he really think you could lose this one?” He bit his lip with nervousness. I rolled my eyes.

          “Carius, I’ve won 27. I fought Verte, the powerful warrior that was undefeated. I won,” I looked at him. To be honest, though, my heart was racing a million miles an hour. Aaron had never been nervous before, not for me. He blew off our practices a lot, because he thought I was ready. Why was he worried now, for the first time ever? If I had my sword, I was fine.

          Then it hit me. A sword. The person I was going to fight was skilled with a sword.

          My heart sank in my chest. I grabbed Carius’s shoulder to steady myself. Thoughts in my mind occurred of me actually dying in the coliseum. That was why Aaron freaked out. We would be fighting sword against sword. Head to head with the same skill.

          “Pressila? Are you okay?” Carius looked up at me.

          “I-I’m fine.” I tried to smile, because I knew that by the time the duel came, I probably wouldn’t be alive to smile any longer.

 

~

 

          I arrived home and my mother did not greet me as I walked inside, even though I said hi and tried to get her attention many times before, and many times now. As much as my mother despised me, I preferred my own home to the hospital. There was less pain in my head and body, and more freedom.

          Carius walked in right behind me and all of a sudden, my mother beamed. She started talking to him and asking him about his day. I started to get really angry. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair at all. My best friend got more love from my mother in one day than I had ever gotten from her. It made me sick to my stomach, watching Carius smile and my mother laugh and smile at everything he said. The envy bubbled inside me until I said shortly, “I’m in another duel with the Northern Village. Maybe I’ll die this time so you can finally be happy.”

          This came out harsher than I had planned in my head. She quickly met my eyes with hers, something she hadn’t done in a long time. She kept looking as if she wanted to say something; her eyes longed to say something. But she just stood there silently.

          Carius looked at us both and then looked down, waiting for us to say something. But I refused to speak if my mother would not. She was obviously happy I was going to die. Maybe that was just how it was always going to be.

          Suddenly, a cry came from the other side of our house, and I quickly identified it as my brother. My mother quickly stole her gaze from mine and looked down, “I’ll go get him.”

          I watched her walk quickly down the hall and swipe something from her eye. It couldn’t have been a tear…could it have?

          “I can go home; this seems like " “ Carius started.

          “Stay,” I grabbed his hand, “please.”

          He nodded and followed down the hallways that led to my room. I sat down on my bed, but Carius just stood there, staring at me.

          “I know that you know why Aaron is nervous. Tell me.” Carius stated quickly. I sighed. Carius would be so nervous if he knew. He would try to find a way to get me out of this duel, and get both of us killed in the process instead of just me.

          “Carius, I " “

          “Don’t make up excuses… I want to know. I care about you, and I deserve to know.” He was right. He deserved to know more than anyone else.

          “I’m not for sure, but the person I am fighting is probably skilled with a sword. We will be going head to head with… the same skill.” I looked down and actually considered for once that I would die. I would most likely die in this next duel. And I would have to prepare myself for it. As skilled as I am with a sword, I would be no match to someone stronger than me if they had a sword. They could knock mine right out of my small hands.

          Carius’s face blanked. His skin paled, and he stared straight at me. “NO, NO, NO, NO!” His face was white now. It was ghost white, as if someone had smeared white paint onto his face.

          “No,” He broke to the ground with his head in his hands, “no.”

          “Carius, I’ll be fine.” I lied. He stared hard at the ground. He knew I wouldn't be fine. knew I wouldn't be fine. It was sad. I knew I was going to die, but I couldn't do anything about it. I let a few tears out, but held the rest in. Carius would freak out even more if he knew I thought I would die too.

          “Pressila, I’ll hurt them if they so much as lay a finger on you,” he stated firmly, “What if they put you up against someone twice your size?! I can’t lose you, you’re all I have.”

          “Don’t turn into your mother.” I said without any emotion. He could not hurt someone else because they hurt me. The duel fighters signed up for that job. No one could prevent anything.

          “I’m not! But something could happen to you!”

          “Something will happen to me, Carius! There’s nothing we can do now! I don’t want to die either, but it will probably happen! And we can’t prevent it! Don’t make it any harder than it needs to be!” I stood up and yelled to his body kneeling on the ground. He didn't seem to hear me. He seemed to be turned to stone. I got angry. He needed to listen. He needed to know that I would probably die. "Carius..." I almost couldn't say it. I held back the tears as best as I could, but a few slipped out. I sniffed and tried to focus, "I..." But I couldn't finish. I sat down on the bed again and put my head in my hands. This was going nowhere. I didn't want to believe it now. I didn't want to believe that I had to leave Carius. I didn't want to believe that I could die; I would die in three or four weeks. My mind wouldn't comprehend the thought. I felt as if I couldn't get enough air inside of my body. It was hard for me to even breathe. But I finally got the courage to say what I needed to say to Carius.

            "Carius... I think it's time that I have to let go of this life, and let go of you. And you have to learn to let go of me." I stood again and stared at him on the ground. I watched him shake for a moment.

          Suddenly, he looked up at me and in a split second, he grabbed me and pulled me to him. His arm squeezed me waist, and I rested my head on his shoulder, letting tears fall out of my eyes. I felt his breaths come in and out unevenly as he tried to comprehend what was happening. In three or four weeks, when the duel was held, I could be gone forever. I would be gone forever…

         He squeezed me even tighter and his voice was barely a whisper, "I will never let go of you."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 6

            My legs began shaking as I anxiously waited on my opponent’s arrival. No others were allowed in the meeting room except the competitor and the trainer. Carius had tried to come in, but had not succeeded. The guards on the outside of the door would not let him in.      

          “Stop shaking. You’re showing signs of weakness.” Aaron shoved me, and I almost collapsed. He was hard on me, but it was certainly a blessing.

          I forced myself to stop shaking and let my thoughts take over. I thought of my killer and I, living together in Aaron’s house for three weeks while we trained. The village that called the duel had to stay in their competitor’s trainer’s house for three weeks with their competitor and their trainer. So the person I would be fighting called the duel on our village. They would be staying in Aaron’s house with their trainer, and I would have to stay at Aaron’s house, too. Just rules the government created.

          I looked around the dark room and sighed. There was no way to get out of this one. I would meet the reason for my death here.

          A quick knock on the door interrupted my thoughts. They were here. Aaron swiftly stood and walked to the door, ready to greet my competitors. I couldn’t move. My body had frozen. I really didn’t think I would ever be this…scared.

          The door flew open and a stocky male walked in. I recognized him as the Northern Village trainer, Solon. I had fought many duels against his village, and I knew him well enough to know he was evil. His dark eyes pierced me, as if he knew he was going to kill me this time. He wore a tight black T-shirt and his defined features made him look even more intimidating.

          “Pressila,” he nodded his head in acknowledgment and gave a quick and unpleasant smile, but when Aaron turned to look out the door for my competitor, he mouthed, You’re dead. I froze, and he smirked. He knew he had scared me.

          “Aaron and Pressila, this is Mahria,” He pointed to the doorway and she walked in. She walked in. My killer.

          She was much worse than I had imagined her. She was huge and her muscles bulged from her arms as if someone had stuck boulders under her skin. She was at least 6 foot, and my merely 5 foot 6 didn’t even compare to that. I stood up to shake her hand, but her hand stuck out with such force that I stumbled backwards. She snickered and pulled her arm back in, revealing just how strong she really was. I saw Aaron out of the corner of my eye, twitching with nervousness. She could grab my arm in between two of her fingers and break it.

          This was it. I was dead; especially if she could use a sword.

          “Well, we should be off to your mess of a house, shouldn’t we Aaron,” Solon playfully punched him in the arm. Aaron scowled as we left the meeting. We held back a few steps and Aaron grabbed me and turned me to him.

          “I’m so sorry I couldn’t get you out of this one,” he sighed and looked down. I couldn’t speak. The terror had taken over my body.

 

~

 

          Training began swiftly. Aaron knew that I would need it now, especially after seeing her. I saw my death standing in front of me with huge arms and a big frame that could crush me if she even sat on me. Mahira. Her name brought shivers to my body. And Solon wasn’t helping my fears either. He kept staring at me, analyzing my every move, probably hoping to find a time when I wasn’t looking, and just kill me. But he never did, he only acted like it, and that made me even more nervous. I sort of wished that he would just kill me, but at the same time, I thought about all the things I would miss. There was Carius and… I tried to think. Was Carius the only thing I would truly miss? I didn’t realize how much I depended on him.

          I was trapped in my thoughts and didn’t notice Mahira was talking to me.

          “Blondie, hey, Blondie! I’m talking to you!” I quickly looked over at her. She held a sword in one hand and a sword in the other, “I heard this was your specialty?” She smirked and tossed me a sword. I caught it swiftly and turned my gaze back to hers, hoping she would realize I would want a shield for our first practice. She realized and her evil smile grew wider. “No shields.”

          I dropped the sword and refused to fight without a shield the first time, especially because I didn’t know how good she was. I looked towards Aaron in the back of the room. I was showing signs of weakness, and I knew that, but I wasn’t going to risk getting killed. Aaron’s eyes told me that he wanted me to try. I picked up the sword and faced Mahira, “Okay.”

          She smiled wider and we tapped swords to start it off. The trainers counted us down to begin. They reached 1 and I faked my first move, making her raise her sword. Boom, found out her strategy. It was always good to fake a move and see what they would do. Her strategy was obviously raising high and going for the top of the head because she was so tall. Good strategy, but I figured it out and could now block her every move.

          I hit her sword hard, making her stumble backwards. She looked at Solon, probably scared now of me. I felt proud. Solon gave her a nod, and she smiled at me. Suddenly, her sword hit hard against mine, hard.  I felt the vibration of my sword and went to steady it, but before I could, she had already hit the sword against my side. Luckily I saw it in time to move the right way and not get hit by the tip of the blade, just the flat part.

          I stared in bewilderment. She had obviously been going easy on me before.  My sword connected with hers but she pushed down hard and my sword flew from my hand. This could not be happening. Aaron had his face in his hands. We all had a feeling that I was going to lose.

 

~

 

          We ate supper that night in total silence. If we had been fighting in a real duel and there had to be a winner, she would’ve been the winner, and I would have been sliced in half and dead.

          I finally felt vulnerable. I absolutely hated it. She was going to beat me, and beat me bad. I was going to die and Aaron even knew it. He had come up to me and told me that if I needed to make phone calls to family before the duel to say good-bye, I could. He would let me. It made me happy, but devastated me at the same time. Even he had lost faith in me.

I had never really been scared before, except when I couldn’t find Carius on the food grounds. That’s the only time I was scared for a life. My best friend’s life had been threatened.

I hated when I couldn’t talk to him for three weeks. We were forbidden to leave the trainer’s house and if we did, it could result in serious trouble. People thought you were getting outside help. So I really couldn’t go see Carius…Carius! His birthday was the next day!

No! I couldn’t miss his birthday! How could I have forgotten?! Maybe if Aaron goes with me, it’ll be okay. I will be able to at least see him on his birthday and everything will be fine!

 

© 2013 Hailey Gony


Author's Note

Hailey Gony
Please ignore grammar. And please say what you really feel if you even like the story at all.

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Added on April 22, 2013
Last Updated on April 22, 2013
Tags: action, duels, duel, pressila may, love

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