26 parts of a Speculative Fiction story by J Lenni Dorner
Jenesis and I pass the time by sparring. I hold back, at first, not wanting to hurt her.
“You said you are Quinn’s uncle. What does that mean?” Jenesis asks as she twists my arm.
“Just… let go. You win. Are you sure you weren’t supposed to be a fighter?” I rub my shoulder.
She shakes her head. “I am a trophy. Not everything you face out there is human. And, unless you challenge a champion, you never know who you’ll face in the arena.”
“But they always know, don’t they. The champions. They can prepare for who they’ll fight. They’ve seen the battles. How would someone like me even know who the seven champions are, if I wanted to pick one to fight against?”
“You already know two. The more fights you win, the more likely that a champion will stop by.”
I shake my head. “It isn’t right. We’re locked in here, and they can do as they please. If I never meet them, I can’t decide to fight them. It isn’t as if I can invite them to dinner to figure out which one I’d like to fight.”
Jenesis raises an eyebrow. “Is that an Earth custom? Invite someone to dine with you before fighting to the death?”
“I… uhh… maybe.” On the one hand, she makes a good point. On the other hand, it does sound like something that could have happened in the history of the world.
“There would probably be poison in the food and drink, and the host would be immune to it.”
I turn toward the voice. I never heard the door open, never heard someone enter. Quinn comes bouncing in with the man. I hadn’t expected him to show up.
“Samuel.” My younger brother. We were so close once. Sammy Shadow.
“It’s Attie.” I cross my arms, fingers digging into my elbows. I don’t want to hit my brother, not in front of his son.
He looks around my quarters. “Yeah. I guess they don’t let you hang anything that might keep you calm. Certainly no images that lead to great conversation. No one here would care what emotions a painting is trying to convey. There’s no music or dance, either. We aren’t here for our minds or our culture.”
“No. We’re here to rip each other to pieces. Jenesis? Could you take Quinn to play in the corner?” I wish I had more rooms. I want to be as alone as possible with Samuel.
He lowers his head. “I wish they could see you dance. I wish they valued the art your body makes, that they could feel what I always felt when I saw you on stage.”
“I danced for her. My crowd has shrunk since she died. Until now, maybe. Seems rage is worth more than a Cossack dance.” My jaw trembles. I’ve missed dancing almost as I’ve missed my children. I hadn’t thought about that part of me, about my soul, since I’ve been here. Damn Samuel! He has always known how to break me.
“You didn’t send my son with a message to discuss your old nickname.” He rubs the tattoo on his hand as he states the obvious.
“I have to know how to get home. I’ve heard that champions can leave. You’re a champion, but you stay here.”
I uncross my arms and crack my knuckles. “Are you here because you were afraid to come home and face me? Is it your fault my wife and son are gone?”
Quinn touches my leg as he runs past. “Don’t yell at my dad!”
I watch him wrap around Samuel’s leg, hugging him. It looks exactly like the pose Danny and I are eternally striking in the picture I keep in my wallet. Tears stream down my face. I hear Samuel say something, but I can’t make it out.
“My fault,” he cries as he kneels beside Quinn.
Sadness and fury overtake my mind.
Blog All About It Challenge ~ The Herd Presents
Do you have a favorite work of art?
My current choice is by Jayne Pope. I have only found it on Pinterest, where it’s called “Summer Sunlight in Ixworth Forest.”
I’m drawn to the use of light and various greens. The geometric properties that make a surreal forest. It feels like an illusion and yet real.
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