[Begin blog post #7]
Chapter 4 – First Fight
You start with a bag full of luck and an empty bag of experience. The trick is to fill the bag of experience before you empty the bag of luck. (Unknown)
I wish I could say I walk to the arena without trepidation, in full confidence of my ability to defend myself against a single male opponent. But I cannot. I am afraid. I can hear the cheers as two handlers lead me down a dark, damp underground tunnel. My opponent – challenger- must already be down there, showing off for his friends and perhaps family, such as family can mean on this world. Father? Brothers? Other male relatives? Oh, the sadness of it; the utter hopelessness of this. Why would I choose such a place to work with?
Again I repeat my mantra against fear, less successfully, and we pass through an automatic door to emerge in a brightly lit area. I become embarrassingly aware of my nakedness and the chains that bind my wrists behind my back. I have been told my weapons would be waiting for me but how can I trust these people? What if I’m being led there just to be slaughtered helplessly by that malevolent fop who tried to crush my jaws with his vicious grip? To be subdued and raped publicly, as I know they do in some of their killing rituals? Surely they are capable of anything, any sort of treachery. Would it be treacherous in their minds to trick a slave? Of course not.
My two handlers open a steel grated gate also by remote control and I step into the low arena floor proper. I’m temporarily blinded by bright light, not only that of the sun at high noon, but by brightly lit plasma lighting tubes surrounding the entire small walled and fenced yard. Tiered seats, what we called bleachers or stands on Old Earth, are filled almost to capacity by men in wildly coloured attires, resembling that worn by my challenger yesterday.
I am brought to the center of the ring to be greeted with jeers, catcalls, whistles and lewd shouts and gestures. The fop pretends not to notice me, but continues his prancing and playing with his swords, making them flash in the lights to the delight of at least one vocal section of this crowd. His supporters? Where are mine? Right!
I’m finally unchained, after a stern warning and being shown where guards stand with lasguns trained on me with orders to kill should I make any unauthorized move. To my surprise, the “doctor” appears and carefully checks me over. He takes my pulse and heart rate, entering these on his wrist com unit. Again he looks me in the eyes and I react to his gaze: he wants me. He hands me a supple piece of leather thong and indicates I should tie up my hair so I am not blinded while fighting or so as not to give the challenger an opportunity to topple me by grabbing my hair – and whispering in my left ear he says, “He was going to use your hair against you and also his dagger is drugged. Be careful. I will see you after the fight and patch you up if needed. Take care. Don’t let us down,” and nodding towards the challenger he adds, “it’s your mandate to kill him – we want him dead.”
Who are “we” and why do they want this particular individual killed? Another aspect of my status of slave I have to learn. I can be given any sort of order by anyone in authority over me (which translates as any male, basically, except my officially sanctioned opponent) and I must do my utmost to deliver. I do not need to know any of the reasons why I should do whatever it is I am asked to do. My function is to obey without ever questioning any of it. Silence and obedience. In this case, not obeying means death so not much choice there.
Now a man in a red robe which I was to learn is called a weapons judge leads me to a small stand at the opposite end of the squarish yard from which I entered. There I’m told to buckle on my dagger belt. I tie up my hair as tight to my head as I can. I heft the rapier but without any obvious theatrics. I must appear totally humbled and look as if I’m here to die, not to kill. No sound must I make and no shout will I utter if I kill the challenger. All I will feel will be the unified surge of hatred and lust for revenge from every spectator, bar none. I am the alien, the enemy, the one to be defeated, humiliated and killed. Were it not for the gambling, and the simple fact that we are worth much to our owners, no gladiator would ever leave these arenas alive. The crowd would rush through the defences and tear her to pieces if she won. Such is the way of their mindless, programmed hate.
A single trumpet blows. As instructed, I take my position at the marked center of the ring. I face my opponent now. He’s removed all his clothes as well, since he must match the slave’s attire and weaponry. He has an enormous erection and I’m surprised at the amazing musculature his ridiculous attire had hid. I feel another shaft of fear go through me – even though I’m not at all afraid to die. It’s something else, something dark, ancient, atavistic, some raw memory that tries to take over my mind. I fight off a moment of vertigo and regain some of my composure. The yells and shrieks of the crowd seem to fade into the background until I can hear my opponent breathe and my heart beat. I’m finding a center of balance, certainly, but it isn’t really mine. I’m being controlled by a force I did not expect and cannot push away.
Another, shriller trumpet blows. I feel his rapier slash through the air rather than see it and easily bend out of its way, thrusting with mine toward his loins. This takes him by surprise, just enough that I nick his thigh. First blood drawn. The crowd is standing, enraged. Kill her! Kill her! Kill her! Deafening chant of pronounced judgment. He moves like a cat, stealthily and sure. This man is certainly not here to die today. He fully intends to bring me down slowly, tiring me by giving me false openings. I realize he had let me cut him. Let me feel the elation of first blood to create over-confidence and to draw the favour of the crowd to himself and rise on the power of their killing chant. Blood: there must always be blood. These men are raised upon the shedding of female blood and trained in feeding that ever-flowing river.
I begin to give way to him, backing around in a tight circle, parrying his thrusts, none of which are intended to kill outright. He cuts me on my right arm as I lift it to balance my sword – clumsy. Fortunately he does not know I’m fully ambidextrous and I switch sword hands – again surprising him. He glares -likely visualizing the informer he has handsomely paid to supply him with crucial details of any surprise fighting tricks. Someone’s in deep shit, I think and find myself smiling inwardly at the old Earthian saying. At that moment everything changes.
I’m no longer a simple woman who would rather be sitting in a small home rocking her sleeping child. I’m no longer the wandering Avatari seeking answers to existential question, or the philosopher she embodies. I’m no longer an Altarian logician balancing equations to extract answers nor am I a slave fighting for her life in an alien arena confronted by a trained killer.
I’m the green-eyed Desert Beast whose turn it is to challenge and taunt her prey. No longer is the naked man attacking me a danger to me. He’s a gift to me. And I to him. I will kill him and because I’m the Beast he will die honourably, according to their belief system. And my task with the women will begin. So I think. So I must believe.
I project thoughts of my Desert Beast nature over to him and watch his face. I see a subtle change on it and the not-so subtle effect of losing his erection. He pales, noticeable even on the white skin. I see a profusion of sweat running down his torso and I smell his fear. There is nothing for it now but to press my attack, parrying and moving in. He jumps back, now on the defensive, and I know it’s no longer a ruse on his part. He knows I do not fear him; that I’ve entered in a terrible, dark high that can only result in his death if he doesn’t kill me first.
For him the impossible has happened: he realizes (by force of the many superstitions that under-gird this society) that I have somehow incarnated that evil female Spirit, the green-eyed Beast of the Desert men somehow fear here. He realizes, too late, he should not have challenged me. He’d hoped that my clumsy attempts at avoiding my trainers’ thrusts and jabs in the training yard were proof of my total ineptitude in handling weapons. He’d chosen the swords because they require the longest training and the most skill and dexterity. And he’d made the most costly and last mistake of his short and pointless life.
The power of the truth as he understands it makes him lose control. In a desperate moment, knowing his rapier thrusts are outmatched, he reaches for his dagger. At that moment I thrust my sword into his exposed throat, almost exactly as I had visualized the day before.
It’s over. There is a stunned moment of complete silence. Seeing their challenger is not going to stand, the crowd erupts in angry utterances. Many spit in my direction as they leave. I was to learn their hate did not come only from the killing of a man, but from loss of money in betting. The odds in favour of their challenger winning had been astronomically high. What does a just harvested ‘wild’ female know of sword play? She should have provided the expected sport, been brought down in blood, raped, then while still alive, her extremities and limbs severed and thrown to the exuberant crowd. I was to experience many such reactions in the months and years to follow.
I am led back down the same tunnel to our compound, only I am allowed to bear my weapons and am not chained. In our section the “doctor” takes me in hand. I remove my belt and hair thong. He orders me to wash and has me brought to his office where we are left alone. He puts a bandage on my arm, then undresses himself and makes love to me, as I expected he would. I don’t want to feel what I feel but I am helpless. After the fight, after seeing that naked man flaunting his erection at me then killing him, a new force has come over me; something to my mind horribly depraved, evil, yet utterly enjoyable. Something of the preying mantis has awakened in my loins. Now I enjoy it – him. And I want it to continue… forever. To forget everything and lose myself in this man.
At this moment I realize what that fear was I felt just before the fight. I feared most of all that I would enjoy myself, that I would find, in fighting for my life, defending myself and killing my opponent, a kind of mind soporific, a drug, which I would then use each time I entered the arena. I could kill without feeling anything beyond the simple effects of receiving cuts and bruises in the flesh. I would become a killer without compassion or sense of empathy. I remembered I had passed through that stage before and it was still a part of me. My sexual release with the doctor amplified this feeling: it was my “due” as the one who conquered to enjoy the ensuing pleasures of sex or drunkenness or both. I did not want to remember that, but I did. And he was there, conveniently, to ensure I did remember.
[end blog post #7]