At high noon, a twenty three year old is strolling down the road of the old theater district. His hands in his pocket, headsets in his ears, his glance directed straight down, he was trying to be inconspicuous and for the most part was succeeding although that was largely due to no one being around rather than his concerted effort, although it was considerable.
But it fell apart rather quickly once one actually assessed the situation.
Considering the summer heat, an outfit of jeans and a jacket already seemed out of place, yet it is further compounded by the fact that instead of denim the jeans were lined with cloth and underneath the jacket was a thermal undershirt.
His pupils are diluted to four times the normal size. His heart rate alternates between deathly still and deathly quick every five minutes or so. His left hand is fiddling with a lighter inside the jacket pocket, while his right hand is fiddling with a bottle of pepper spray. The lack of sweating also is cause for concern, but for someone reason that seems to the last thing off about him. What the vast majority of people would find unsettling is the playlist of bubblegum pop blasting in his ears. It is arguable that the music choice was driving his odd heart rate, but that is not something that has been empirically proven so it is conjecture.
He’s been wandering about the district for only about thirty minutes. He’s looked at the currently functional venues and hasn’t found any indication that is where he needs to be later tonight. He always liked the live venues more so than the abandoned ones, regardless of the audience size because those tended to be cleaner and more structurally sound. But it wasn’t up to him. He gives up once he reaches the last theater and starts going into the ghost part of the town.
He breezes by the recently shut down. Very rarely does one go for the middle ground of venue, no it is either kept or rundown. Recently condemned buildings lack the excitement of the other options, especially in the theater district.
Eventually, he finds the sigil on the side of an old warehouse. He takes a look through the vacant windows and notices the walk way lining the second story. He thinks to himself that it is a clean venue. Not that it isn’t covered with layers of dust, rust, and other pleasantries; it is just empty. Not a lot of environmental factors to take into consideration which makes a lot of mental decisions easier. He’s glad about his choices he made beforehand. He makes a mental note about his route before finding a café to rest in before the festivities begin.
A few hours pass. The street lights flicker on outside and he feels reckoned. He takes his phone off the charger and puts his headsets back in. He doubles check he everything in his pockets: lighter and pepper spray. He fiddles around and finds the amplifier. He attaches it to the charger of the phone. He cranks his neck. He hears it crack and begins making his way back to the warehouse.
He stands a few yards back to see the turnout. No one is standing outside, but the lights are blaring inside. It’s a constant stream rather than a strobe which is nice. The shadows dance around, but it is quite. More so than anything, he is thankful for the quite. This was not something he could have ever influenced. But he would not be there for the quite. For the focus exclusively on the music he gets to pick. Thankful for the origins in silent ravings, it almost makes him thankful for the marital law.
This is the strangest urban fight you will ever see: two fighters, weapons of their choice, one venue, and an audience to watch the ensuing battle. All of this, with a self-provided soundtrack, albeit tailored.
He approaches the warehouse. Shows the sigil on the inside of his jacket and the bouncer lets him in. There is a decent showing of two hundred or so. Some are on the catwalk, already anticipating the coming bout, but a fair amount is on the ground floor. He skirts around the edge, looking for his opponent. He’s never seen him before, and wants to take stock before boosting the advantages.
He gave up normally crucial factors to assure the smaller edges. He forfeited venue for the music track, maximum weapon size for not needing to inform the other of their choices beforehand, the size of the audience for a lack of uniform. These seemingly inconsequential things mean significantly more to him. They don’t keep records, but he’s never actually lost a fight after deciding to prioritize those three. Only the most compulsive researchers try to prevent him from getting his lineup.
He started choosing music when he started realizing that a rock soundtrack messed with his internal attack rhythm. He never could carry too large of a weapon, so the ability to conceal what he was bringing provided a much more solid advantage. And the ability to tailor outfits to a particular set of weapons was crucial at least for him.
He had a reputation on the circuit for crazy innovations and combinations of weapons. He never was considered that much of a threat to the experienced fighters because they swore up and down his flash bang tactics would never work on them.
He is hoping to prove them wrong with this bout.
He spots his opponent at the center of the warehouse. Two giant sledgehammers by his side, headsets are only in one ear. He takes a deep breath and no longer can make any adjustments.
He reaches into his pocket and boosts the signal. The effect is delayed by a few seconds, but suddenly, the music cuts from all the headsets and a single note is played.
People hear the note and begin moving to the outskirts of the warehouse. The man with the sledgehammers is looking around to see his opponent.
The man eyes slowly return to normal. He is the only one left in the middle of the floor. The first track plays.
Hey, I just met you
And this is crazy
But here’s my number…
That’s the cue. Both reveal the sigil burnt into their clothing. Sledgehammer by rolling up his sleeves, revealing it on his shoulder. Once again, the man opens his jacket. They lock eyes and nod once.
And this is how the fight begins. This is how you live when you’re told you can’t. These types of fight didn’t exist before they imposed martial law. These types of fights weren’t even thought up martial law. But they exist now and he lives for.
The sledgehammer starts the fight with a great horizontal swing arcing towards that man. He takes a step back and avoids the attack with ease. Even with the heavier clothes, he is more nimble.
He tries thinking back to some of the notes giving in the email. Low tier experienced fighter. A few steps above a stepping, he will be a decent entry into the next grouping of fights.
The back and forth goes on before he realizes that sledgehammer isn’t tiring from all of the swings. He’s also noting that he’s not aiming to strike. The follow through in his swing is different than a finishing blow.
At that moment, he gets caught in shoulder. The pain isn’t what gets him, but the unexpected shock is the problem. He spins around and feels both hammers crush his sides.
The utterance isn’t audible, but it doesn’t stop him for saying. He loses his fleet wording and suddenly feels the tug. He is dragged into the arms of sledgehammer and he realizes the hammers aren’t cudgels, at least not primarily. They are there for reach.
The song on the next track begins.
I hear your heart beat to the beat of the drums
Oh what a shame that you came here with someone
So while you’re here in my arms
Sledgehammer takes this as a cue of his victory. His hammers raise and ready to swing downward to take out the knees and end the fight cleanly.
Let’s make the most of the night like we’re gonna die young…
This is the man’s cue. With the limited mobility of his arms, he reaches into his pocket and grabs the lighter and pepper spray, ignites and a small fireball bursts outward. This gives him the opportunity to break out of the hold. This is why he wore layers, wore winter clothing, not for cushion, but protection
He isn’t crazed. His heartbeat is steady, his pupils appropriate to the darkness, and his mind more lucid than ever. The only time he ever felt proper was when he was fighting.
Sledgehammer resets his stance, while the man restarts the lighter and brings the pepper spray to the flame. He draws a line creating an arc of fire.
While it doesn’t seem like it goes too far, the hammers catches. He stares at them for a moment, which gives the man the only cue he needs.
Like we’re going to die young…
A direct fireball to the face. Sledgehammer drops to his knees and submits.
The track ends. He talks to the commissioners inside to confirm his entrance to the next tier of the fighters.
He leaves the building smiling. Someone, ignorant to what just happened, passes by him a few blocks down the road. Unbeknownst to either of them, she to is going to the fight, thinking there is no way it could have been over. Wanting to address his watery eyes she asks “You got something in your eyes?”
He sees her mouth move, but doesn’t hear her. He takes off his headsets and asks “could you come again?” in an eerily polite way.
She asks again “You got something in your eyes?”
The answer of course is a smoke, a collection of ash clouding his vision, and that he can barely walk in a straight line.
He smiles and simply responds, “Nah, I’m just really happy.”