Estimated reading time — 7 minutes
“I could feel his muscle tissues collapse under my force. It’s ludicrous these mortals even attempt to enter my realm.” – Mike Tyson
The singular incandescent light bulb isn’t nearly large enough to illuminate this dingy locker room. Darkness surrounds both me and my trainer, it seems like nothing in this universe exists other than us. He finishes taping up my hands and starts lacing up my gloves. With a grave expression on his face, he looks directly into my eyes and reminds me of what I’m supposed to do.
“Okay kid, make it respectable for the first two rounds. Don’t get too cute with this guy, he doesn’t know the fight is fixed. Go easy on him and he is likely to bash your face in.”
“I know, we already went over this.”
Ignoring me, he continues, “In the third round you go down and you stay down. Your contract will be fulfilled then, and this demon will be out of your life for good.”
We exit the locker room and walk down a short tunnel. Bright blue lights are scattered all over the smoke filled arena and I feel disoriented. To make matters worse, the crowd boos me as they throw rubbish in my general direction. I desperately scan the crown for my wife, but I can’t find her. I know she is in here somewhere, I really want to see her face one more time before the fight begins.
Once I step up into the ring, I can see my wife from the higher perspective. She is five rows back and looks terrified. Sitting next to her is a middle aged man with slicked back grey hair who is wearing a black suit and tie. He looks like a stereotypical Mafioso. If only that were the case, everything would be so much simpler.
“Get your head out of your ass!” my trainer yells at me. “You can’t be worried about her now. If you want to help her you need to concentrate on the fight.”
My mind isn’t on the fight at all, I’m worried about my wife and that thing sitting next to her. The ringing of bell nearly sends me into a panic as my opponent comes straight towards me.
I’m taller and have a reach advantage, but he is more compact, outweighing my by a few pounds. My plan for the fight is simple; I’ll dance around him for a couple rounds, keeping him at bay with my longer reach. If he gets too close, I’ll clinch and not let go until the ref forces us apart.
Thirty seconds into the fight, my plan literally goes straight to hell. My opponent is much stronger than I assumed and preternaturally fast. His left hook catches me on the chin and I go down. Everything went red.
A brief vision of intense burning and pain, not for me but for my wife. Flames engulf her as she screams in agony. I want to help her but I can’t. An overwhelming feeling of helplessness looms over me so terribly that I feel like I’m having a heart attack.
I’m back in the ring and I gasp for air. My trainer is screaming at the top of his lungs for me to get up. I oblige him with a Pavlovian response as I jolt back onto my feet.
The referee grabs both of my wrists. “Can you continue?”
I nod my head and he signals for combat to resume.
Somehow I survive to the end of the round. I actually get a few good combinations in, which is the only thing that saves me. My opponent definitely won the round though. My left ribs hurt every time I breathe. My head still feels fuzzy from his love tap on my chin.
“Damnit kid, weren’t you listening to me? I told you not to get cute with this guy. No more dancing around and clinching,” my trainer yells.
I respond by spitting blood into a bucket.
He continues, “Okay, you just need to last one more round then you are home free. You can do it, I know you can!”
I resist the urge to look over at my wife and her captor. Not looking makes me feel even worse. I sense an evil presence in that general direction. Intense feelings of sadness, despair, fear, loneliness and hopelessness suddenly overcome me. I know it’s some trick the grey haired man is playing on me. I need to fight these feelings, I must go on and finish this round.
The bell rings and my opponent makes a beeline for me, I can sense murder in his heart. No, it’s not murder, murder is a human emotion. He looks more like a crocodile heading straight for its prey, sheer predatory instinct trying to kill me. This fear keeps my adrenaline up and I get a few good punches in.
My left hook connects squarely to his temple, but somehow he is unfazed. Before I can follow up with a combo, he dishes out multiple body shots and a glancing uppercut to me. The crowd roars its approval, they can smell blood.
I desperately tie him up in a clinch. My ribs hurts worse than any pain I’ve ever felt before, and that’s saying something because I’ve been lots of fights. I’m lucky his uppercut didn’t fully connect or I’d be dead. The referee pries us apart and we trade several more punches.
Right as the bell rings, he hits me in the ribs again. I’m blinded with pain as I double over. I stagger back to my corner and collapse onto the stool.
“Okay, you did it, you are home free,” my trainer says as he massages my shoulders. “At the next reasonable punch he throws, you hit the mat and you stay down.”
Paying no attention to my pain, I consider the grey haired man sitting next to my wife. Even though I still feel his malicious presence, he doesn’t scare me anymore. I’m about to live up to our end of the bargain and soon he will be out of our lives once and for all.
The bell rings, and I’m practically smiling under my mouth guard. All I have to do is let this guy punch me, I’ll take a dive, and it will all be over.
Eight seconds into the round he catches me off guard with his deadly uppercut. Before I know what’s happening, I’m lying on the mat. Perhaps it’s my endorphins kicking in, or perhaps it’s a result of my brain rattling around inside my skull, but for whatever reason time seems to slow down to a crawl.
A distant voice is screaming “stay down, stay down.” I wonder who is yelling at me. Where the hell am I?
I remember a nice grey haired gentlemen coming to me my wife several weeks ago. He had a ridiculously strange offer for us. Something involving a whole lot of money. We signed some meaningless contract, and I am supposed to do something during this fight to fulfill the contract.
There was something in the contract about her soul as collateral. My wife thought it was a joke or a prank. We figured there was no harm though, perhaps it was just some kooky old man who had too much money on his hands. We were quite shocked when his check cleared several days later. All of our money problems had been solved.
I get up onto my knees and I don’t know what to do. The blow to my head left me feeling confused. I need to do something to fulfill the contract, I just can’t remember what. Am I supposed to win the fight?
I spring to my feet. The referee looks shocked that I’m able to continue. “Are you sure you can go on?”
I don’t understand a word he says, but somehow I know to nod my head in response.
Pure instinct is taking over. I’ve been a boxer long enough to know how to fight while hurt. I’m sure I have a concussion, that’s why I’m confused. My body is operating on pure muscle memory.
My opponent is already standing on the ropes with his hands up, celebrating victory. He looks annoyed that I’m back on my feet. He moves in to finish me with a deadly flurry of punches.
He throws a punch and I block it. I easily block his second and third punches, I’m in the zone. When he throws his uppercut I dodge to the side and I hit him with one of the best right crosses I have ever thrown. He goes down like a sack of potatoes.
Euphoric rage envelopes me as I stand over his unconscious body. The referee shoves me towards a neutral corner and ceremoniously counts to ten before declaring me the winner.
“Oh, my god, what have you done?” cries my trainer.
“I did it, I won the fight!”
I run over to hug him, but he looks afraid of me. Before I can get within ten feet of him he hops out of the ring and runs towards the locker room. Instead, I go to look at wife, my fists in the air signaling triumph. As I lean on the ropes, I look in her direction only to find that her seat empty.
POST FIGHT ANALYSIS
By the time I make it back to the dim locker room my trainer is long gone. My faculties are slowing coming back to me and I feel a gradual sense of growing dread. Something isn’t right. I wasn’t supposed to win the fight was I? Realizing my mistake I feel sheer panic.
I sprint back through the tunnel and into the arena. Most of the crowd has already cleared out, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find her. A few stragglers want to congratulate me on my victory, but I don’t care. I frantically run to the seat where my wife was sitting but she’s not there. I make a giant loop around the arena, and then the balcony, but there is no sign of her. I sprint out into the lobby and she’s not there either.
My vision is blurred with tears as I dejectedly walk back towards the locker room. This can’t be happening, it just can’t be happening. I didn’t mean to win the fight. I was confused. I didn’t know what I was doing.
Opening the locker room doors, I see a blurry figure standing directly under the gentle light of the locker room. My vision clears as I wipe the tears from my eyes. It’s my wife and she is facing away from me. I run towards her and scoop her up in a giant bear hug.
“Thank god you are okay, I was so worried about you!” I exclaim.
She doesn’t embrace me back. I slowly place her down and examine her closely. Something is seriously wrong, I feel ice water running through my veins. The hair on the back of my neck stands straight up as I gaze into her dead soulless eyes.
Credit: M Barnett