The crowd roared as I entered the large, dark arena. A cache of weapons, including close-range and long-rage weapons, sat in a pile in the center. Sandbags and concrete barriers were sporadically placed around the rest of the arena. Every few moments, a bright light would flash in a random part of the arena to illuminate it, perhaps giving the advantage to one of the gladiators.
The guard leaned close to me and whispered “the old man’s eye sight is going. This should be an easy first kill for you.” With that, he shoved Louis and I forward and stepped out of the arena. The iron door slammed behind us with a loud crash, followed by the grinding of heavy locks sliding into place.
I looked at Louis. “Good luck.”
Louis smiled, and threw a powerful punch, catching me in the jaw. I stumbled sideways and tripped over a sandbag barrier. The crowd roared again as I sat up and watched Louis run for the pile of weapons. He grabbed an assault rifle, and tucked a knife into his right boot. Bad eyes or not, he still had the advantage. Not only was Louis an experienced killer, but he had access to all the weapons.
I curled up behind the sandbags and looked up above me. Hundreds of people were screaming at me, pointing at me, and a few were winding up to throw garbage at me. Curling up in a ball wasn’t their idea of a good show.
“Come on out,” Louis shouted.
I peeked out from behind the barrier and a bullet whizzed by my head and sank into the wall. Damn, I thought. I peeked out again and another bullet flew by. I dashed out from the other side of the barrier and slid behind a short chunk of concrete closer to the middle of the arena.
“He’s a quick one,” Louis called out. He laughed and a barrage of bullets struck the ground next to me. He was toying with me at this point. I picked up a rock and peeked out just far enough to see the arena. A light flashed, revealing Louis out in the open, and I stepped out and threw the rock as hard as I could.
The rock soared through the air and struck Louis in the side of the head. He cried out and stepped behind a steel barrier. I ran up to the next barrier, putting me closer to the weapons cache.
Louis held his rifle out and sprayed bullets around where he had last seen me. I took a step out from the other side of the barrier, and spotted a grenade lying behind the next barrier.
“Come on out,” Louis yelled. “Let’s get this over with.”
Just as I stepped out from my cover a light flashed, illuminating the area around me. Louis fired at me as I dove toward the grenade. A sharp pain shot through my arm as a bullet pierced by right forearm. I cried out as I crashed to the ground. I picked up the grenade and looked out from behind my cover. I suddenly recoiled, already forgetting that my right arm was wounded, and I happened to lean on it.
“Is that blood I see?” Louis laughed as a light illuminated my position again. “You’re dead,” he barked.
I pulled the grenade’s pin and tossed it over the barricade toward what I hoped was Louis’s position.
A moment later a grenade came rolling to the left of my barricade. He had thrown it back. I scrambled out from behind the barrier and Louis unleashed a fury of bullets. I ran as hard as I could. My legs and my lungs burned. My arm ached and throbbed. I wanted to leave, but I knew I was going to die. Louis had all the weapons and all of the experience. There was nothing I could do.
“You can’t kill me that easily,” Louis shouted. I heard him reload his rifle and sprinted out from my cover. I hadn’t realized how close I was to the weapons now. A light flashed over the stash and I saw Louis step out from his cover, rifle aimed at me. I fell backward and slid toward him. He took a step to the side, and I swung a leg up and kicked the rifle from Louis’s hands. “Bastard,” Louis cried. He grabbed the back of my shirt and picked me up. He drew an arm back and punched me square in the nose. I felt the blood immediately flood from my nostrils and over my lips. He drew his arm back again, but I shoved my knee into his stomach. Louis lost his grip and I stumbled backward, landing on the pile of weapons.
I wrapped my fingers around something and pulled it out. A police baton. I swung the weapon at Louis’s head, but he raised his arm to deflect the blow. I cringed at the sound of the baton cracking the bone in Louis’s forearm. I drew back again and struck Louis in the ribs. He took a step back and I bashed him in the left shoulder.
Louis roared and grabbed the baton. He ripped it from my hands and jabbed the end of it into my stomach. I fell back onto the pile of weapons and he grabbed me by the shirt and pulled me forward. He used the momentum to throw me into a steel barrier which I smashed into. I staggered for a moment and touched my forehead. I felt the warm blood on my fingers. I fell to my knees and swayed for a moment, and then fell over backward and stared at the dark sky.
The crowd roared. I had forgotten about the crowd. My entire body writhed with pain. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think.
Louis stood over me with a grin painted across his face. “You look a little bloody,” he said. He pressed the barrel of the rifle to my bloody forehead.
“I thought you were too old to fight,” I struggled to say. My words echoed in my pounding head.
Louis laughed. “I may be too old to fight. But I still fight smart.”
I smiled. “I wouldn’t call you smart,” I said. The grin on Louis’s face twisted to a look of confusion. “Looks like God came to get you.” I shoved the rifle barrel aside and grabbed the knife from Louis’s boot. I plunged the blade into Louis’s stomach and ripped it down, spilling his innards onto the ground and my face.
Louis stared at me with wide eyes. I rolled out of the way as he fell over forward. The crowd roared, and I could only vomit. I pulled Louis’s insides from off of my head and face, and could only vomit more. My head and nose were pounding, and my arm was throbbing.
The arena lit up and the crowd cheered louder than before.
I had won. But, what had I won? The chance to kill again? To never return to my old life? Was it worth it? I had become a killer, and nothing more. At least gladiators earned their freedom. Would I ever earn mine? Would I ever be free again?